It took balls to for MGMT to abandon Oracular Spectacular‘s catchy-as-hell, platinum-selling, indie dance party feel on follow-up Congratulations. After the resulting ‘we don’t conform to your expectations’ rep, it took a similar amount of oxymoronic balls to make their industry standard pre-release stream, for a “compromise-free” album no less, available exclusively through subscription-only sharing service Rdio. Seriously, no one wants to get another damn account – what happened to NPR streams for the people?
Less surprisingly, their third effort is paired alongside enough seizure-inducing (literally), masturbatory psychedelic images to completely stop your laptop if you’re in a college Starbucks with average wi-fi use by its customers. That said, the self-titled project follows in the overt kookiness of its predecessor – somewhere between The Beatles, Animal Collective and the lighter side of psilocybin – nonsensically describing life as MGMT through walrusian lines.
The album opener musically wanders, but has a lovely lyrical edge to it – Van WynGarden accurately lashes out at music industry star-fuckers and possibly music journalists as well with a vocab similar to John Lennon‘s, but more cohesive. The scattershot chords initially deliver, but later confuse: [LISTEN]
If queued into “The Optimizer,” the visual project released with the LP, you’ll notice the same female, antlered, hi-heeled, walking 90’s screensaver, with lobster claws and shrimp-face seen in “Alien days.” There aren’t many better ways to showcase the discontent Van Wyngarden is plagued with here: [LISTEN]
At least for the duration of this track, MGMT cross over from party crowd-pleasing guilty pleasure to awesome neo-psych that you’d show your friends for cred. Victims of all types in all scenarios succumb to the “mystery disease” over a darkly slick and percussive groove. Best MGMT song yet: [LISTEN]
MGMT again mesh the psychedelia of The Beatles and Pink Floyd in purposeful oddity with a march and a big crescendo. However, as Van WynGarden looks within, it’s feeling more coherent of a package than most post-Oracular… material – or maybe we’re just getting more used to it: [LISTEN]
The lyrical rhythm’s repetition is as aggressive as the track’s overall distortion, possibly as a reflection of the panic-inducing realization MGMT wants you to have if your life follows society’s plan instead of your own deepest desires. Either way, the weird video entertains more than the song: [LISTEN]
This won’t make anyone’s most-replayed list, but MGMT did manage to fit a full, fairly dark mind trip into only 4.5 minutes. It never wanders, but never conforms to typical structure, either, and winds up with that bittersweet feeling that perfectly fits the term “A Good Sadness:”
With successfully dense production akin to veteran electronic artists, “Astro-Mancy” again shows MGMT’s ability to do more than just Oracular…-era subtle-as-a-brick synth pop – while flying through the cosmos here, they force us to realize they’re completely done with Hollywood bait:
This pun-tastic title wins the album award for most self-indulgent use of (literal) bells and whistles, such as the Dark Side of the Moon giggle. It morphs into real, but very Animal Collective-ish, music about halfway in as Van WynGarden “comes to terms with what he has:”
Van Wyngarden spells his disappointment with Suessian rhymes and a literal twist on the old metaphorical adage. Surgeons, artists, and bartenders all fail their responsibilities to MGMT, but who cares – there’s plenty more girls in the sea. Or mermaids?
MGMT close the album with a suicidal “twilight” beach walk. You’ve got to wonder: just how much ecstasy they were referring to “gobbling up” on “It’s Working.” Like many other tracks here, it teeters between ‘WTF?’ and ultimately rewarding, but never fully picks a side: