Your girlfriend might hate this album. It’s much more for the record collector set than their long suffering and ever patient better halves who delighted in the dance pop of the band’s last effort. More Odessey and Oracle than Oracular Spectacular, the band wasn’t kidding when they said there’d be no “Time to Pretend” or “Kids” this time around. That’s not to say it’s not good, it just means it’ll be good for a smaller number of people and those people are the dorks who actually got that Zombies reference.
The band maintains it’s sense of pop, but this time instead of radio-friendly (what does that even mean anymore?) nuggets of unforgettable melodies and anthemic calls to “fuck with the stars” and “have some fun,” they draw from the roots of conceptual art pop of the mid- to late-1960s. And why not? Just like their forefathers, MGMT was thrust into the void of (indie) rock fame in the wake of a couple of really, really catchy tunes. They got pigeon-holed and expectations mounted for their follow-up. Druggies everywhere rejoiced when it was announced that the dude from Spaceman 3 would be involved only to have those same dreams dashed when we all found out it wasn’t Jason Pierce.
So here we are with a weird mash of flutes and lo-fi psychedelia in 2010. Somewhere the madcap is indeed laughing. If that’s your bag then this is an interesting album and worth repeated listens since, as we find with all good psych music, the layers peel back over time to reveal some really intricate weaving of influences and pretty musical moments. There’s everything from an uncanny modern take on Leonard Cohen, to Berlin, to 70s Creep Out, to a Tangerine Dream-style freak out all within the confines of “Siberian Breaks.” But that’s not everyone’s bag and it’s not always so brilliantly executed. The gratuitous name check and Munster mash of “Brian Eno” is just silly.
Besides, some people don’t want to work that hard, they just want to have some fun and wear neon headbands at summer rock festivals. Well, I can’t see anyone jumping around and yelling out the choruses of these songs because most of them don’t have choruses. There’s will be the set to catch when you’re dehydrated and coming down—hard.
The strangest thing about this album is how it ends. The title track is a very pretty, entirely accessible little folk-pop song about the perils of fame and success and the corrupting influence of yes men. Yes, it sounds like the Wish You Were Here ode I am making it to be, which is strange given what year it is (2010, right? Right!?!?!) and the fact that MGMT’s success is relative in this hyper-niche and fractured market. Maybe I am wrong but I don’t think their limos are being mobbed and their hair’s being cut by throngs of teenage girls. Regardless, it’s clear that they relate to the music and the sentiment of that particular time in music when pop was taken seriously, but they should also beware the dangers of pop taking itself a bit too seriously. Let’s hope they reap the rewards of such a thing and get back to shagging models.
Video: MGMT – “Flash Delirium”