It’s a strange journey overall, with unexpected and rocky beginnings leading into a somewhat hazy attempt to find their true sound.

Rating: 2/5

As someone who’s followed MGMT peripherally for a while, I had high expectations for their latest album. I expected a new slick experience, a return to the clever and commercially viable pop of their first album Oracular Spectacular. After their brief foray into self-indulgence on their sophomore, Congratulations, I had hoped they would go back to the groovy beats of tracks like “Kids” and “Electric Feel.” But with their self-titled third album, they did exactly what I didn’t expect.

MGMT begins, as I was surprised to discover, with a strange, spacey number titled “Alien Days” – a song that is more atmospheric and experimental than any song of theirs so far. The singer, Andrew Van Wyngarden, says that the sound is “as if a parasitic alien is in your head, controlling things.” This is fairly accurate, though the song does go on a little long considering the small amount of actual content it contains.

“Alien Days” segues into the similarly psychedelic “Cool Song No.2,” with its series of dreamy verses about petals and spiritual connections: “glimmering like a precious stone, maybe we shared a dream, for twenty nights in a row.” This prose would be easy to pass off as sandal-wearing hippie jargon, but something about it feels genuine.

The album continues along these lines; sparse, lo-fi, and almost a little bit Animal Collective. If you were one of the over-a-million people who bought and grooved to their first album in 2007, you’ll find yourself craving some real beats, of which there are, strangely, none. There is a vague emptiness to the music that just cannot be explained, as if something is simply not there.

However, if you are one of the more elite (probably vintage-wearing) 300,000 who bought their second album in 2010 and felt slightly smug as you appreciated what you viewed as MGMT’s choice to maintain integrity in the face of corporate pop-loving scum, then this is your area.

There is a little throwback to their former sound on track nine (“Plenty of Girls in the Sea”), which is the first song on the album to really echo a bit of their old grooviness. The last song, “An Orphan of Fortune,” could also almost fit on their debut. But overall they’ve surprised us all; instead of running back to their legions of dance-party-loving fans, they’ve continued with the trend they started with Congratulations, and kept playing the psychedelic experimental smorgasbord that I suspect they’ve wanted to all along.

So it’s a strange journey overall, with unexpected and rocky beginnings leading into a somewhat hazy attempt to find their true sound, then what in the end seems to be a throwback to what they once were. Pull the rug out from under the listener, then draw them into the psychedelic madness; except they fell short at the point of actually drawing me in. MGMT have stopped going for mass appeal and started trying to “weed out” the fans who appreciate their new sound (that verb may or may not be a reference to what the band were probably smoking when they made this almost too-spacey album). To be honest, I don’t like it at all and I’m not going to listen to it. But you’ve gotta respect their integrity.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Lisa Craw.