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CMJ 2007, Night Four: MGMT and Foreign Islands

October 20, 2007 12:41 PM ET

One thousand or so bands (give or take a few shaggy haircuts) hit New York City every fall for the CMJ Music Marathon, a five-day band-a-palooza where new acts get noticed (see Arcade Fire) and scores more get drunk at open-bar showcases. For the next few days, Rock Daily will be bringing you reports on the bands we consider most worthy of your time after CMJ has packed up and moved on:

The copious bitching and moaning that precedes CMJ -- the exhaustive hype, the hordes of bodies, the wristband drama -- all but vaporizes once you're actually at a show, anticipating the goods. And if there's one up-and-coming band whose songs can send whiners packing, it's MGMT. They might not be an outright psychedelic band, but there's no way around the colorful escapism provided on their mercurial electro-pop debut Oracular Spectacular. Friday night's audience of evenly divided male and female, washed and unwashed attendees was a little worn out by the time the band hit the stage a bit before 1 AM, but bobbed in place to their Flaming Lips-like fantasy jams. MGMT themselves were more timid than expected, and didn't totally harness their music's potential to beam listeners out of a dank basement club and into the clouds -- but there'll be plenty of time for that in the coming months. MGMT seem poised to ride excellent track "Time to Pretend" into a realm where they won't have to visualize success.

Prior to entering the land of pretty swirly-pop make-believe, gravity was firmly enforced during Foreign Islands' furious set. The Brooklyn-based band unloaded post-punk dance tunes that could've put a fissure in the earth's crust -- kind of like what Franz Ferdinand would sound like if they were fed nothing but steak and eggs for twelve months straight. The band's high-energy frontman Mark Ryan kept the audience scared, excited or both.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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