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After the initial magic wears away, it isn't much more than curious neo-psychedilia complete with generous Fridmann production.
on 2 October 2013
The third and eponymous album by MGMT is not the album you, as a presumed fan of their work up to now, have been expecting in many ways. Although their new and unique "electro-psychedelic" direction is admirable and at least interesting for the most part, this does not mean a really fantastic album and in this case, MGMT seem to have missed a trick. Disregarding the acclaim that they felt they didn't deserve for their debut, "Oracular Spectacular", they continued to create "Congratulations" which the band now concedes to not have been a great effort. Adamant to show what the band is really about, "MGMT" rushes straight down the more unconventional path and ends up in a place full of half-baked ideas along with some better ones.
The album's ten tracks, none of which run over six minutes, offer two distinct flavours generally split into Side 1 and Side 2. Side 1 hosts the tracks with the stronger melodies and hooks while Side 2 deals with the more "trippy" cuts which include both the weakest and strongest material MGMT have ever crafted. To say that "MGMT" is a disaster is an over-exaggeration to say the least. It shows that the band is still interested in trying to make new and engaging music which is reassuring as it is the most valuable asset in this band. The duo are not prolific by any stretch of the imagination so it is slightly disappointing that the time spent on most of the songs seem to have been on making the production sound brilliant (which it does) instead of writing compelling melodies that evolve over the course of its run time.
There are exceptions to this criticism however. These include the relatively conventional, spacey opener "Alien Days", the following piano based "Cool Song No. 2" and the overwhelmingly colourfully produced "A Good Sadness". These tracks prove that if they had devoted more time to the songwriting, in whatever way they do it, then they would have an album filled with brilliantly unique and attention-grabbing music. As it stands, the majority of the songs seem to have been derived from aimless elongated jam sessions by picking the best fruit out of a bad bunch and it shows in the weaker tracks (see the watery, wrinkly orange segment that is "Astro-Mancy"). Although there are several moments of inspired psychedelic goodness in these "experimental" sections, "I Love You Too Death" being a definite highlight of Side 2 with its dreamily textured atmosphere punctuated by a yawning bass sound, the main bulk of the album is full of above average sounding synth effects, guitar parts and drum tracks.
Therefore, the real question is what they get up to next. There is no doubt that the band is getting better in many ways; the lyrics are a real step up from previous efforts (VanWyngarden has become very accomplished with whimsical, lulluby poetry which fits nicely to the music) and the production, as mentioned before, is consistently vibrant throughout the album. However, the duo's reliance to trust their first instinct and pass it off as the best they can do is to do a disservice to them; they are two outstandingly imaginative musical minds if they bother to concentrate.
So although this may not be the remarkable breakthrough that some expected from this self-titled offering, it is positive sign that the band is definitely going places; "MGMT" just happens to be a stepping stone that takes them further out than ever while also bringing them closer to true magnificence.