MGMT
Little Dark Age


4.1
excellent

Review

by Jordan M. STAFF
February 15th, 2018 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don't call me nice.

I think the spectre of Oracular Spectacular haunts MGMT more than it should, which is ironic considering I’ve just chosen to foreshadow an entire discussion of Little Dark Age by contrasting the two releases. Well, how about considering it from this perspective; maybe MGMT should consider that album’s legacy to be pervasive, rather than problematic" After all, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” were and are good songs, but has that album in its entirety ever held up as a particularly eventful moment of its time" Or, do we remember those two or three songs, and let nostalgia fill in the rest" I’d argue in favour of the latter, just as I would argue that whilst Congratulations and their self-titled albums were not particularly good in any way, they were no more or less worthless as Oracular Spectacular should be remembered. This is a band that, with no disrespect intended, has essentially survived on misplaced hype; and so the narrative goes on, haughty critics deriding each and every MGMT song in the belief they're always trying to write their next “Time to Pretend.”

It’s hardly fair, but it’s at least transferred some measure of goodwill upon this band that otherwise wouldn’t have been accorded had they not dominated the charts about ten years ago. Goodwill that, needless to say, helped them survive the critical mauling that sunk their last effort, 2013’s dense and derided MGMT, and has now allowed us to talk freely and openly about Little Dark Age with the critical maxim that it’s their best album in over a decade. Now, obviously, that much is true, but again, such comparisons put terrific weight upon this band to again meet the false standard that is Oracular Spectacular. The band that wrote that album was full of joy, both loose and youthful, sincere and plentiful; the band that recorded this album sounds nothing like that. Accordingly, it’s hard to imagine that it will find major success, as few songs resemble their hits or even hint towards replicating a cultural moment that is commercial viable on a wide scale (vague overtures towards the ‘80s notwithstanding). To put it mildly, Little Dark Age isn’t a success story, nor is it a comeback for anyone other than the most nerdish and devoted of us, and it doesn’t matter anyway. This isn’t the best this band has sounded in years, it’s the best they’ve ever sounded.

None of that betrays the fact that MGMT still sound like MGMT at heart. Despite infusing their songs with a heightened anxiety, these are songs that are still nostalgic for any given yesterday, if not lyrically-- and lyrically, this thing is writ large with detached technophobia and neurotic obsessions disguised as love-- then in composition and production. That much was obvious when we chose to recommit to the band with the title-track, which mixed gothic theatrics with deadpan vocals and macabre, dramatic synths that hinted towards The Damned or The Sisters of Mercy; needless to say, most of Little Dark Age touches upon similar archetypes, whether that be the sexually ambiguous and Pet Shop Boys indebted “Me and Michael,” or the ironic jangle confessional “When You Die.” It helps that MGMT wholly commits to the pastiche, because the lyrical subject matter, ranging relationship problems expressed through workout metaphors, to ennui brought upon by technological advancement, gives these songs lifeblood beyond initial curiosity. Among them, “One Thing Left to Try” is the only song that wilfully creates a through-line to Oracular Spectacular, and honestly, it’s pure coincidence that it’s the album’s strongest song.

Obviously, followers will be cautiously optimistic, and detractors will be smugly contrarian over this shift in style. The embrace of Ariel Pink, who features written, performing, and production contributions all over this album could logically lead some to construe this a conscious effort to garner attention at the cost of actual songs. And, certainly, there are songs where certain sounds, melodies, and words begin to weigh down the conceit of the album and make it all sound a little too 1980s for its own good. But, having said that, this is still the best album MGMT have ever made, not in spite of, but because it so wilfully mines nostalgia to express themes common to the band. Previously, those core elements alone were not enough to justify caring about the band past 2007. Now, infused with an outward adoration for The Smiths and New Order, its given them a reason to exist in the first place. Not too bad for a band that only five years ago insisted they couldn’t write pop songs.




Recent reviews by this author
Sheck Wes MudboyTravis Scott Astroworld
Denzel Curry TA13OOPusha T DAYTONA
Post Malone beerbongs and bentleysJ. Cole K.O.D.
user ratings (377)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Haygoody (3.5)
"We'll all be laughing with you when you die"...

DropTune (4)
Just as delirious and strange as it needs to be....

Kirk Bowman (3)
defibrillator...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 14th 2018


18217 Comments


"but is that album in its entirety ever held up"

kinda reads weird to me idk (maybe "has" would work more)

polyrhythm
February 15th 2018


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Have to say, their "we are not a Top 40 band anymore" evolution isn't one of the strongest in musical history. Usually when a band hates being known for their hits, they jump in the deep end of a radical new style to assert their artistic individuality. All these guys did was ape the 80s and the psych giants of yesteryear, like every other indie group at the moment. This is a solid album, but it really doesn't do much to distinguish itself. Strong 6 to a light 7 imo

Digging: Emma Ruth Rundle - Marked For Death

polyrhythm
February 15th 2018


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Great review btw

JesusCage
February 15th 2018


251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This grows.. only James and Days that Got Away failed to click with me. If it weren't for that this could be rated higher. And at first listen I thought ' well this is a 3 at best'

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2018


9126 Comments


Awesome review

soymilk13
February 15th 2018


420 Comments


yawn

Pheromone
February 15th 2018


6514 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yh this album makes me happy

ProjectFreak
February 15th 2018


3202 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"critical malling "

mauling?

review is good though, album's decent but it might grow on me

gryndstone
February 15th 2018


1188 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cool 2 see that patrick wimberly produced some standout trax on this

Hatework
February 15th 2018


136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

James, Days that got away, and when youre small are the growers here. Whole album is great imo.

DoofusWainwright
February 15th 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Average steadily droppin’

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2018


12003 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The relatively effusive praise heaped on the first MGMT record that doesn’t suck is interesting to me

Digging: Illuminati Hotties - Kiss Yr Frenemies

BeyondCosby
February 15th 2018


2307 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is purdy decent. I will definitely return to this

WatchItExplode
February 15th 2018


6122 Comments


If they're going to be relevant in the cultural landscape the least they could could do is produce benign indie. This whole album got a few repeat listens from me which is more than any other individual song from them has ever received.

polyrhythm
February 16th 2018


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

When You're Small would be my highlight, if it weren't for the daft lyrics. I know they're going for some Syd Barrett "mouse who hasn't got a house" simplistic rhymes... but still, it grates

iambandersnatch
February 16th 2018


1794 Comments


"All these guys did was ape the 80s"

the 80s nostalgia that has dominated every medium lately is definitely getting tiresome.

Hatework
February 16th 2018


136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Id argue mgmt does the 80s thing quite well.

polyrhythm
February 16th 2018


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I think they do. Just funny for them to go "Oracular Spectacular was tongue in cheek" and exchange the cliches of that album for a different set of cliches...

polyrhythm
February 16th 2018


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Same thing happened with The Horrors. After the debut, they took their mask off, only to reveal another one beneath it. I like both bands, but you can hardly call their style their own

DoofusWainwright
February 17th 2018


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Agreed poly, band are full of shit really, they keep on changing those paper thin masks, copycat stuff in all honesty.



They stumble on the occasional ok song or idea....but even Empire of the Sun manage that.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy