The trailer for MGMT's forthcoming self-titled record isn't the first piece of culture that's inspired by this year's NSA revelations, but the nearly seven-minute video is probably the most ambitious yet. The concept is simple: a band rehearses while a the NSA monitors their every move. It's absolutely silly, and it's absolutely relevant too.
According the trailer's writer and director Jordan Fish, the idea came up the day after the Guardian's revealed Edward Snowden's identity. Here's what he told me by email:
I met up with MGMT the day after Edward Snowden was revealed as the NSA whistleblower, and Laura Poitras's riveting interview video with him went live. I was fascinated and moved by Snowden's courage and intellect.
You could sense that he was devoting the rest of his life to exposing what he saw as an abuse of power. Ben, Andrew and I (along with creative consultants Bradford Cox and Alejandro Crawford) decided pretty organically that it would be fun to tell a story about the band being spied on by the NSA, and sort of tie together the ideas of Wikileaks and album leaks, the "surveillance wall" motif that you see on TV and in movies all the time, and the way fans put pictures of their favourite bands up on their bedroom walls.
Of course we had to throw in some good old-fashioned Reptoid conspiracy stuff to make it fun. It's a thoroughly silly piece, but it was inspired by true events. It's kind of like a political cartoon in the form of a short film — starring one of the best bands in the world. Get their awesome new album when it comes out next week.
All of its goofiness aside, the video makes a lot more sense the day after the NSA leak than it does the day before. Sure, film and television about surveillance is hardly new, but since June, it's taken on a new heftier significance. Even when it's meant to be funny, nothing's too ridiculous to believe.
MGMT's new record drops on September 17. Rdio subscribers can listen to it right now.