After a second album, “Congratulations,” that did not do very well on pop charts, one would expect that MGMT would try to recreate the electro-pop sound of its 2007 debut “Oracular Spectacular.” Yet surprisingly, MGMT took a different route and created an album stranger and more psychedelic than its second.
If this is Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser’s attempt to prove to the world that they are more than the pop hit makers of “Time to Pretend” and “Kids,” they have certainly done so in this self-titled album, “MGMT.”
“MGMT” starts off with “Alien Days,” which uses a catchy hook and haunting lyrics, including a child’s voice to add layers to the song. It might sound absurd to a first-time listener of MGMT, but that is just the beginning of the ride for this album.
Songs like “Your Life is a Lie” and “Plenty of Girls in the Sea” have ridiculous lyrics and are sung in a madcap way that makes them fun to listen to. “Your Life is a Lie” might be more difficult to enjoy, but it slowly grows on you after multiple listens.
“Cool Song No. 2,” with tribal beats and a piano background, make it an interesting amalgamation of styles. Its dark reflective lyrics are a refreshing change from some of the more plain lyrics on the album. That and “Mystery Disease” are two of my personal favorites on this record. “Mystery Disease” uses loud synthesizers and manic drum beats with muffled vocals, while the repetition of the titular words and the overall production of the song make it truly haunting.
In some cases, the production of a song ends up making it sound overdone and forced, which reduces the effect that the track would have otherwise. “Astromancy” and “Introspection” sound like imitations of their own music. They are both over-layered and have distorted production that makes them almost difficult to listen to. The final song, “An Orphan Of Fortune,” is slower and doesn’t provide an epic finale for the album as it could have.
In the end, this is MGMT’s most experimental album. But is it really that good? I prefer their more experimental music in “Congratulations”; this album sounds a little over-worked and slightly indulgent. “MGMT” has its moments with some unforgettable, catchy songs. It also has a few tracks that seem repetitive. “MGMT” has the sci-fi, psychedelic vibe that the band has perfected. Though it may not be the greatest follow-up to the sophomore effort, this album still has the trademark MGMT sound.
The band has stated numerous times that it can’t write a pop song and “MGMT” seemed as if it was forcefully trying to prove that—and in a lot of ways it seemed to work. MGMT is still trying to find exactly what it represents as a band, and the progressively experimental sounds of the last two albums are making me look forward to what MGMT will do next.