Review: MGMT – MGMT
Published on September 16th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
MGMT: the band that keeps getting better the further it strays from the mainstream. Not that that should necessarily surprise, but we need some way of articulating their glorious, er, weirdening.
Their penchant for psychedelia was evident on 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular but was comprehensively overshadowed by the more straightforward electro-pop likes of “Kids” and “Time to Pretend” achieving hit single status.
2010’s Congratulations thrust the psychedelia further into centre stage while remaining anchored in reality by dint of Earthly, familiar rhythms; a breezy skip here, a “Be My Baby” break there, and so on.
MGMT sees it take over altogether and the results are genuinely stunning. Their affiliation with The Flaming Lips shines through in the frazzled ‘n’ fuzzed-out production – no coincidence, what with Dave Fridmann on knob-twiddling duties – but it winds up being a sound all of their own.
In short, MGMT does sound a bit like recent-vintage Flaming Lips, but not to as high a degree as it is worthy of The Flaming Lips. For anyone wondering, that’s a huge compliment.
MGMT are a modern-day rarity: a young band on a major label releasing music that follows only their own whims, demonstrably untouched by record company interference. So refreshing is this that its magnificence comes as quite the bonus.
Opening track “Alien Days” hits Deerhunter levels of scratchy oddity, concealing within it a quite masterful display of tangential psych-pop songwriting over its thumping beat.
We’re then led into more sinister waters by “Cool Song No.2” and “Mystery Disease”, the former of which is so spectacularly tripped-out that it’s as if The Moody Blues had time travelled way too far into the future by accident and were trying to find their way out of a darkened jungle.
You know it’s good stuff because it makes you write things like that without even having to think too hard about it.
“Introspection” lets the sunshine back in, sounding as it does like early Who tripping balls, before the insanely catchy “Your Life is a Lie” bangs on cowbell, grinds to a halt, pounds itself back into action and all the while sounds so sweet, so silly and so genuine that you can’t wait to hear where MGMT goes next.
That would be the grandly otherworldly “A Good Sadness”, equal parts song and outright aural experience…indeed, similar could be said of the ensuing “I Love You Too, Death”, which sounds like a dream of a runaway train being chased by Godzilla, and somehow really, really lovely with it.
Granted a mix positively swarmed by cross-sensory elements that may or may not be gradually intensifying (maybe it’s the arrival of the backing vocals that achieve this effect), “I Love You Too, Death” carries you off into a transcendent state of wary bliss scarcely even hinted at on those early singles.
It’s a great song title too, but then so is “Plenty of Girls in the Sea”, a sort of Beach Boys by way of solo Lennon that’s all smothered in fuzzy MGMT weirdener (like sweetener, but weirdens things). Wonderful.
Once we’ve been deposited out the other end of this sonic adventure by monumental closer “An Orphan of Fortune”, it’s clear that MGMT did well to self-title this record: it is, after all, wholly worthy of being their defining moment.
MGMT is out now on Columbia Records.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!