MGMT have recently released their third LP, a self-titled affair that continues the group’s dive into the psychedelia spectrum while maintaining some of the commercial elements from their first release.
With MGMT, as with all bands that have been around for a while, it is tempting to compare new releases to earlier efforts, particularly when a band receives as much success as they did with their popular début album ‘Oracular Spectacular’ which spawned hits such as Time to Pretend, Electric Feel and the indie dance-floor anthem Kids. In their early days they achieved heights most bands spend years climbing towards and with their follow-up ‘Congratulations’, they surprised their more mainstream fans and indeed their record label with an album that veered away from their more radio-friendly units. It is interesting to hear which way they lean with this new release.
Album number three comes with a statement: ‘This is the real MGMT’, but it finds itself sitting mostly on the fence. On one side is the commercial sound of their début, on the other is their more progressive sound found on ‘Congratulations’. The more mainstream side is most appropriately shown in Your Life Is A Lie, a catchy number that contains hints of Devo. Released as a single, it was well received by the online world and as a result was the perfect tool to launch the self-titled album with.
Also highlighting the commercial capabilities of the band is Alien Days, the album opener which combines electro titbits with a country-rock vibe but is bizarrely childlike at times with the tune drawing on a nursery-rhyme sound. Introspection fits the bill as well although it is a little blander than Alien Days with a soft ’60s psyche feel watered down by modern vibes; easily skip-able as it is limp in quality.
It seems though when MGMT touch on anything related to the decade of love it goes slightly awry. Not only does Introspection run cold, Plenty Of Girls In The Sea comes across as a Beach Boys parody, unpleasant to the ears and sickly sweet in its tone. There are plenty of more expansive and diverse songs here that are much easier to enjoy such as Mystery Disease. This track is quite mechanical which suits MGMT – more than the fluffy sound of Plenty of Girls – and is a groovy number with an ominous feel, calling to mind the mysterious sound of Electric Feel. In the same vein are A Good Sadness which has a spiralling electronica sound and Astro-Mancy which has a slow tempo, a mysterious air and a spacey sci-fi feel to it.
Cool Song No. 2 is the record’s outstanding track. Evidently influenced by Brian Eno, it blends a tribal feel with MGMT’s patented electronica sounds. It’s certainly one of the most memorable tracks on the album alongside I Love You Too, Death; an intense fast track which clanks along tunelessly, and is an intriguing and excitable listen. Both of these tracks stand out as the most psychedelic on the album.
‘MGMT’ falls somewhere in between a potentially commercial success-story and an album of underground heroism. It appears the group is making efforts to appease their label with a softer less obscure sound, all the while maintaining their true musical interests, hence the title perhaps. It is not as exciting or inspiring as their début album but it’s clear they have grown musically, embracing their psychedelic influences and giving us here a worthwhile listen.