GENRES: Indie-Pop, Psychadelic Pop, Psychadelic Alternative, Electric Indie
TOP TRACKS: Alien Days, Mystery Disease, Your Life is a Lie, An Orphan of Fortune
MGMT, the psychedelic indie-pop/rock duo formed by Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, have returned after a four year absence with their third, self-titled studio album and boy is it isn't the most anti-radio friendly record I have heard all year. I mean seriously, almost everything about this record is the exact opposite of everything tolerated in commercial music or even just contemporary music in general
However ironically enough, MGMT's long journey to obscurity actually started way back in 2004 with their debut album Oracular Spectacular which was full of CATCHY singles like "Kids", "Time to Pretend" and a personal favorite of mine, "Electric Feel". And although there were some psychedelic qualities and characteristics on this album, it wasn't until their sophomore LP, Congratulations, that MGMT truly broke from the norm and embraced a full on psychedelic and trippy style that was very happy, upbeat and also meaningful.
Congratulations is my favorite of the two. Simply because even though MGMT came off a really successful debut release and brand new signing with the almighty Columbia Records, they took their music in a completely different artistic direction and they new what the consequences of their actions would be. Naturally, some fans lost interest and didn't quite (air quotes) "get it" but some of them stayed and respected MGMT for what they were doing. (Plus it was a hell of a record)
I've got the strange feeling that with this album even more MGMT fans will feel alienated and write off this band. And this isn't just because their new self-titled album is even weirder than their previous one (because it is) but this release lacks the direction that the previous two MGMT albums had. Although it's certainly not a bad record, it sure as hell isn't great or groundbreaking and that isn't to say that MGMT ever claimed to be either of those things but with this one I think these two have finally confused me.
Truthfully the only parts of this album that I had really heard was the single "Your Life is a Lie" and a live video of the opening track "Alien Days". And I actually really like both of these tracks. "Alien Days" was the same happy vibe that was given off on Congratulations but I immediately noticed that it was more electronic vibe that anything on the previous album really gave off. To me this change in sound was initially just a new chapter in MGMT's strange trip away from the normality of music. It was essentially a new direction for MGMT to venture into.
However, as the album progressed and songs like "Cool Song No. 2" and "Introspection" played, I noticed a different stylistic change from MGMT and that was one that replicated the musical style of the Flaming Lips with their Wayne Coyne's monotony of vocals and the detached, industrial psychedelic attitude attained through a chaos of cacophony. However, I simply feel like the Flaming Lips are better at making that type of music, for a lack of better phrasing.
When I say this I mean that it's very clear that MGMT are paying tribute to the Flaming Lips as prime influences. The one thing that MGMT was able to attain throughout all of their musical changes was the element of pure emotion. Whether it be happiness, joy, sadness, or just plain silliness, all of MGMT's music had a mood to it. And while this new album is weirder than before, the very sudden lack of emotion on almost all of the songs besides a few make them very unmemorable in my mind.
In addition, just about the entire back half of the album was shoe-gaze influenced it seemed. The sounds were distorted, difficult to perceive immediately and elements like the vocals and other lead melodies were turned down in the overall mix in favor of loud elements of rhythm. To me, this didn't sound like artistic direction or groundbreaking songwriting but rather a cry for help from some confused and displaced musicians who don't really have a clue what to do next.
Everything about this album sounds jumbled and confused. The real saving grace is that MGMT will always be interesting to me personally just because I love their style. For example even the most repetitive track, "Your Life is a Lie" appealed to me. I loved the randomness of the music video when it came out and I love the song in the context of this record for some reason. It also sounds like a Flaming Lips track by the way. The closing track, "An Orphan of Fortune" was truly the saving grace for this album especially towards the end. You know they do say that you are only as good as your opener and closer and MGMT definitely chose both of those well. The closer is mellow and is really the only true representation of rock music whatsoever in the this entire album. Not saying its like a fucking Creed song, but it has its moments with the drums and some of the melodies that indicate rock roots.
I tried SO hard to love this album just like I did with the previous two MGMT releases but after 5 listens it started going in one ear and out the other besides a handful of tracks. That isn't to say that this is a bad record. It's just quite average from the standards of MGMT. I expected a little more. Not too much more but definitely more nonetheless. Overall, this was MGMT's weakest release to date. However, three straight great albums is something that not many bands can claim they ever did. I'm just looking forward to seeing these guys on tour again and who knows, maybe they will come back with more interesting stuff for me and everyone else. I've definitely still got the faith.