No one is entirely sure what to make of indie darlings MGMT's inscrutably strange performance on Late Show with David Letterman last night, except perhaps to shrug and crack "More cowbell" jokes that would have sounded tired in 2002. We suppose that leaves the score at MGMT: 1, cable television audience: 0.
The performance finds a deranged-looking Andrew VanWyngarden mechanically striking a massive novelty cowbell emblazoned with the words "BE AWARE" while clad in a witch's cloak and glittery star-shaped sunglasses. Behind him, his touring bandmates solemnly beat out the two alternating chords of "Your Life Is a Lie," from the group's forthcoming self-titled LP. Here, watch:
We've known since 2010's prog-addled Congratulations that MGMT is uninterested in regurgitating the success of "Kids" or "Time to Pretend." Which is to be admired. Don't the best bands disown their breakthrough hits eventually?
But this is a step beyond. David Letterman seemed particularly unsure how to react, thanking the band "like a dad whose college-aged son's friends just gave an incomprehensible performance in his living room," as Pitchfork described it. Then again, he has played host to more jarring guests before, like that time Sonic Youth fell down and he had to ask them if they were okay, or that time Crispin Glover tried to karate-kick him.
Others have been less forgiving. Consequence of Sound calls the performance "terrible" and tracks some of the twittersphere's reaction. Here are some more:
The constant banging on that oversized cowbell made me want to punch everyone in the face. #MGMT— I'm j. (@SwedishArya) August 23, 2013
think the reason every1 hated mgmt's performance on letterman is because the 4 people who actually watch letterman are old and confused #sry— chiara (@postmix_) August 23, 2013
Looking for someone to explain last night's MGMT performance on Letterman. Plz contact us ASAP— Sonicbids (@Sonicbids) August 23, 2013
mgmt looking absolutely miserable on David letterman— mcik (@BOOTYGROOVE) August 23, 2013
But the band itself shows no sign of relinquishing its percussive weapon of mass confusion:
What a long strange trip it's going to be, leaving for tour today! we are riding our giant cowbell all the way #tour— MGMTMGMT (@whoisMGMT) August 23, 2013
Alas, they can't all be young forever. But confusing David Letterman can be a noble act. We salute MGMT's stubbornness for making Letterman interesting for just three minutes and refuse to end with a "more cowbell" joke.