MGMT – “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” – Song Discussion

MGMT is a band that is quite possibly best known for their use of pop hooks and melodies combined with psychedelic inspired guitar and lots of synthesizer. Most people probably recognize the singles “Kids” and “Electric Feel”, and most people would also probably recognize their album cover art for their debut record, Oracular Spectacular. But what most people probably would never notice is the depth of some of the other songs on this record and the pristine talent behind them. One of those songs happens to be the eighth track titled “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters”. Dreamy, thought provoking and a little panic inducing, this song is built upon varying tempos, some of the best instrumentation I’ve ever heard and lyrics that stun like no other.

“Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” clocks in at just under five minutes long and isn’t even set up with a chorus and verse like traditional songs are. It’s structured around just three verses without a chorus or bridge to go with. These verses all create a story based around moons, birds or monsters but mesh together to create one cohesive idea. The first verse takes the moon into consideration and seemingly criticizes spirituality with the line “Are you mad at your walls / Or hoping that an unknown force can repair things for you?”. Although most of us look up to the sky and expect some spiritual being to help us out, this verse puts the idea in the listener’s mind that they are the ones who control their lives. And yet, with the next line, it encourages the idea that you have to continue with your life even if things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to by putting it metaphorically, “If the ship will never come you’ve got to move along”. There’s a really interesting tug of war between fate and determining your own destiny in this verse, which helps lead into the next one.

The second verse, which is the bird verse, portrays this dismal theme of how sensitive we really are that the “prick of a feather could make a kingdom burn”. To go along with the first verse, this one builds upon the idea that it seems to be in human nature to always try to control everything but realistically, at most times, we don’t have any say in our outcome at all. Sometimes we try our absolute hardest and put so much effort towards a relationship, exam or project and you still might not get the results you wanted. This uncertainty and possible feeling of frustration can become so intense to destroy our entire lives and it’s not even our faults; it’s just the way it is. This verse ends with the narrator saying “If she’s going under I can hold my breath till the sky comes back / Or drown like a rat”. The way I interpret this, this line goes along with the previous one but continues with the idea that sometimes we have no control and we can either use that to our advantage and not worry so much about the future or allow it to induce fear and consume our lives.

The third verse for me is the hardest to understand but the main thing I take away from it is allowing yourself to be less demanding and constrictive, and letting things happen as they do. The line referring to cutting the monsters brains out could point to the habit of overthinking, essentially demonstrating that you should remove negative thoughts to let nature run its course. The last line to be featured on this song, “Communication is easy as the ocean” is saying that it’s easy to get things out there if you like let them wash over you, like waves in the ocean. This is especially difficult for a person like to me understand since I’m constantly reasoning and never shut my mind off but it does bring up some important points. We have the power to destroy ourselves in such a short time span by trying to manage everything around us, but some things just weren’t meant to be. All we can really do is try out best and that’s just something we have to accept and move on with.

Besides the intricate lyricism of the track, the instrumentation provided to back it up is some of the absolute finest on the record. It starts out rather fast paced, with a simple drum beat backed with a bright guitar riff. After the second verse, we’re introduced to what almost sounds like a new song, where it slows down and builds up again, mounting to a surf inspired guitar solo before leading into the third verse. After the third verse is done, the song slows down into a dream inducing melody layered with a small guitar riff, vocal blips, synthesizer, bells and drums to keep the pace of it all. This goes on for over two minutes until the song fittingly fades out into static. In it’s entirety, this song is almost psychotically crazy but extremely well organized and takes us on a wild ride through many things we might not want to consider in the most gracious fashion.


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