Review Summary: MGMT's self-titled third album finds the psychedelic outfit literally reaching for the stars and assembling a zany collection of warped songs.
MGMT have always been the band to swim against the current. With interstellar hits like "Electric Feel" from their debut album, they seemed poised to take the world by storm. However, their follow-up LP Congratulations
highlighted the band going in a more ambitious and outlandish direction, which irked many fans but ultimately yielded a more cohesive and detailed sonic expedition. It essentially portended the disappearance of whatever trace of pop inclination remained in these zany songwriters. And here we have the band's third, self-titled album, which is essentially the proverbial nail in the coffin of the old MGMT. The band is on their own path now, and it's up to the listener to follow along or to leave them to teeter in their own peculiar universe.
is easily the band's most bizarre effort thus far, and they bring a copious amount of unfathomable ideas to the table to back it all up. Many tracks are laced with baffling effects that hover in the foreground to effectively purvey a loss of bearings. This approach finds MGMT thumbing their noses at structure in favor of a difficult psychedelic extravaganza. Nevertheless, in doing so, the band fortunately manages to avoid falling into the trap of taking themselves too seriously. At a certain point, their absurd performance becomes as comical as it is mentally draining. The heavily occupied production endows the tracks with an otherworldly ethos, and though the foreign sounds and electronics that filter through them can be very distracting when attempting to absorb the music at its core, they offer a degree of replay value to the album, or rather impose it.
Over its 45-minute length, MGMT
delivers a series of loosely constructed, meandering psych rock tunes. It's a whirlwind of confusion, one in which MGMT themselves get lost as they become inextricably connected to their predilection for nonsense. For those looking to get lost as well, this record is one hell of a ride. Every song possesses its own modus operandi, leading to several unannounced diversions. For instance, "An Orphan of Fortune" is a free-form space rock number that catapults the audience into the obscurest of dimensions. "Cool Song No. 2" sounds like it was ripped from an uninhabited planet beyond the confines of our galaxy. There are a few moments, such as the piano segment two minutes into this track, where we are reassured that MGMT is human, but they are few and far between. Thus, once the fuzzy effects take over the instruments, the big picture is even harder to grasp.
"Alien Days" does an excellent job of introducing the album with a dreamy ambience and a child's vocals. It signals the imminent whims that the band will nourish throughout the LP and provides the easiest entry point to their shameless indulgence. However, the album is not entirely meant to unleash sheer chaos. In fact, the song "A Good Sadness" stands out in its slow building of momentum and its ability to sustain that energy for its five-minute duration as Andrew VanWyngarden's vocals explore the wide soundscape it assembles. Though MGMT's palette can overshadow the ideas themselves, their peculiar style yields interesting results on tracks like "Introspection" (an interesting cover song) and "Mystery Disease".
While MGMT's temerity certainly displays itself, the substance below their surface-level quirks and warps is somewhat deficient. Furthermore, moments like "Your Life Is a Lie" and "Plenty of Girls In the Sea" seem fun at first, but fail to evolve and become annoyingly repetitive. Unfortunately, unlike Congratulations
struggles to solidify many of its distinctive ideas, leaving them to float off into the wind. The record exhibits a band desperately trying to erase its past but uncertain as to where to go next. It's not necessarily a bad place to be, but it's not a place where clear-cut answers can be expected.
On MGMT's third album, they've made it clear that they're not catering to the casual listener. As a result, they embark on a sonic adventure that is silly, fanciful, and anomalous. Eschewing hooks in favor of fickle song structures and variegated embellishments, the group realizes a sound that is both amusing and exhausting. It's the band trying to reinvent itself yet again. So, perhaps having a self-titled third album is meant to be a musical statement. Then again, maybe the band is simply messing with our heads, just as the music itself consistently does.
A Good Sadness
An Orphan of Fortune