MGMT
Little Dark Age


3.0
good

Review

by K Bowman STAFF
February 5th, 2018 | 90 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: defibrillator

Let's talk about age. I've always wondered if taste degradation over time is inevitable. It seems like no matter how fascinated people are with innovation, how permanent their interest seems, they end up hating the new things that come out and don't appeal to the things they decided were Good when they were in their 20s, if not earlier in their lives. They declare anything else to be Bad, usually paired with some misinformed sense of objectivity. I know that's present in the music critique world, but it seems like artists tend to understand the pulse of music's body a lot better than the rest of us. MGMT are an example of a band that have had their finger on and off of it. Their peak in popularity seemed spontaneous and resonated in the biggest veins in music. "Kids" sounded like a perfect crossover between the dark chiptune of "Crimewave" and the more approachable pop of "Lisztomania," which resulted in their success in both the blog house scene (they grabbed Justice and Soulwax remixes that year, along with Last.FM's "Most Played New Artist" award), as well as the mainstream ("Kids" ended up going platinum). Since then, they've never been quite as cool. Congratulations and MGMT felt less current, and often even seemed pandering to a retro aesthetic. MGMT circa Oracular Spectacular and especially Time To Pretend felt and were futuristic, with their impact striking the music scene later in artists like Foster The People, fun. and Ke$ha. They haven't had that success since, sadly, and not for lack for trying.

Little Dark Age hits five years since their last album, and Andrew and Ben are very aware of the general consensus of the various elements to their discography. In a review with Rolling Stone, they said: "a lot of people wrote us off after the third record…They were like, 'Oh, they have no pop juice left in them. It's not happening again.'" This time around, however, they're more accessible than they've been in years. "She Works Out Too Much" and "Little Dark Age," with their obvious synthpop influences, sound like they've finally moved on from Flaming Lips worship to an acceptance of less psychedelic influences like New Order and The Cure, which ironically leads to a more psychedelic feel. When they stop trying quite so hard to find the pulse, they are a lot cooler, which is always obvious in hindsight but understandably difficult to actually live by, especially since this is a band that never really tried to just make music the fans wanted. They infamously (although very briefly) refused to play "Kids" at some of their 2013 shows. Their last two albums show that they clearly haven't been chasing after commercial success. There wasn't so much haphazardly storming through genre aisles for the missing "pop juice" (like so many bands dealing with sophomore slumps do) as they are happening to find it again while looking for something else off their list. In fact, they claim Trump's election inspired the optimistic songwriting more than anything else, with even the name of the album referring to his hopefully short term.

So, background aside, Little Dark Age kind of holds up. It's the best MGMT album since Oracular Spectacular, if that's what you liked. This album is fun, full of memorable melodies and relatable lyrics. "When You Die" is the most outright they've ever really been, telling an unknown listener to "go f*** yourself," spitting on those who try to take advantage of kindness. If you're more of a Congratulations person, it claims much of the maturity of that era as well. There is a lot of depth here. "Days That Got Away" is the "Siberian Breaks" of this album, but less needlessly lengthy and more cathartic, the melancholy music betraying the emotional core of a band often too concerned with complexity to be genuine. But for as many highlights as it has, there's still a lot of filler. After the first three tracks finish, it sets quickly into letdown territory, making listening feel like a chore for a while. "TSLAMP" is a lament of Andrew's "existence, combining a 1980's electro beat with a ‘La Isla Bonita’ and a Margo Guryan chorus", and it feels like that's all they had in mind; some sort of this extended jam session about millennial self-frustration. "Hand It Over" just sorts of drifts off into nothing at the conclusion, falling asleep into a phaser when it could be an anthem of rebellion and resistance.

As much as I'd like to say that this is MGMT's return to form, it's not quite there. It's not bad by any means. I think my most honest assessment is that this is a good album, not excellent, not innovative, definitely not flawless, but good. This is a band that some say has been coasting off the continued attention the Facebook likes from a hit single bring for more than a decade, and they're still not doing everything they can to prove their worth. Of course, they don't need to, they can afford to not. Meanwhile, listeners who really care about the band will probably enjoy the album, and it'll certainly be a nice listen for 80s revivalists, but I wouldn't say that it's worth a try for the average person, which is sad, because they've shown us before that they have it in them.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
granitenotebook
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2018


1272 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

source for quotes:

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/mgmt-on-new-lp-playing-kids-live-oracular-11-years-later-w515791

s/o to:

the selly-ester watts field on their third album

pjorn for hating the flaming lips enough for me to feel ok dissing them



Ryus
February 5th 2018


37237 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

did they actually manage to make an okay album this time

Divaman
February 6th 2018


16120 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well written review. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to bother with this one or not, but you've moved me a step towards trying it out.

TVC15
February 6th 2018


11372 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wooooahhh wooooaaahhhhh I did not know this actually had a set release date

StKiyo
February 6th 2018


385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fuckin loving this album, it's better than it has any right to be

ZippaThaRippa
February 6th 2018


10671 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

WAYNE COYNE

Frippertronics
Emeritus
February 6th 2018


19536 Comments


"pjorn for hating the flaming lips enough for me to feel ok dissing them"

lol

ZippaThaRippa
February 6th 2018


10671 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Seeing these guys in a month, gf bought tix. Anyone else in the DC area?

50iL
February 6th 2018


5398 Comments


Hey, good review man
Pos

BrushedRed
February 6th 2018


3567 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is so much better than a 3. But also should this already be reviewed?

guitarded_chuck
February 6th 2018


18070 Comments


excited to hear this based on early response, these guys have a good thing goin, will wait till im home with my good headphones

Holsety
February 7th 2018


25 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This one is consistent, perhaps the most consistent MGMT album to date.

Frivolous
February 7th 2018


879 Comments


might be pop aoty if its as good as the singles

BrushedRed
February 7th 2018


3567 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The singles are wonderful but TSLAMP, Only One Thing Left to Try, and Days that Got Away are the stunners here. This will probably be a 5 by end of year. This is AOTY material easily. The only one I’m not a huge fan of is When You’re Small. I can see the appeal by old school psychedelic fans, but it is just meh to me. I hope it grows on me though. Easy 4.5 otherwise for sure though

jtswope
February 8th 2018


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

One Thing Left to Try is so catchy. The biggest standout for me.

grannypantys
February 8th 2018


2578 Comments


Oh man I thought this was their third album.

luci
February 8th 2018


12844 Comments


This is good. Hardly amazing, but good. That's praise for late-stage MGMT.

Edit: read the review, was well-written! you said something similar

DoofusWainwright
February 8th 2018


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

If someone thought Oracular Spectacular was a 1.5 then what would they likely make of this? I”m asking for a friend.

luci
February 8th 2018


12844 Comments


This isn't as festival-core as that one. Catchy neo-psychedelia for the most part, I can see you giving it a 3 +/- 0.5

DoofusWainwright
February 8th 2018


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Will give it a go then, open mind and all



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