james debate
james debate

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Genre Psychedelic Rock
Label Columbia
Producers Dave Fridmann, MGMT

mgmt new third album alien days

The story of MGMT is one that has been told over and over. Their debut album Oracular Spectacular was far bigger than anyone could have dreamed, spawning classic singles Kids and Time to Pretend that are still heavily played six years later. The irony was that MGMT never set out for that kind of mainstream success.

The ensuing identity crisis resulted in a followup album Congratulations which was, to put mildly, met with mixed reception. Anyone who approached the album expecting more radio-friendly Electric Feel style songs was instead met with what one might describe as "artistically adventurous" music, and what others might describe as self-indulgent or worse, pretentious. The most radio-friendly song on this album was a drug-infused 1960s trance, and the least was a tie between the 12 minute epic with 7 different movements, or a song which was just a woman shrieking.

At the time it was reported that MGMT, disappointed by the reaction to their second album,  were working on returning to more radio-friendly fare for their third album. Well I'm here to tell you that that is emphatically not the case. With MGMT's eponymous third album the band has doubled down on "weird".

Let's say it right off the bat, there are no instant-love songs on this album. Anything worth listening to takes several attempts before you start to see the cleverness in the music. That said, there is plenty of cleverness here to be found.

Let's start with the album's best song by far Alien Days, a dreamy trance of 1960s psychedelia. This is an example of MGMT weirdness done right; what first appears to be nothing more a bizarre mish mash of discordant combinations and unexpected divergences upon repeated listens reveals itself to be anything but. Neuroscientists will tell you that enjoyment of music typically comes from pattern recognition, but Alien Days' intricate composition is one of those rare songs that constantly surprises you, and yet still manages to work.

Still, MGMT somehow manage to go further in the album's second track Cool Song No. 2, a rumbling tribal dirge that on first listen sounded almost painful to listen to, but on (many) repeated listens begins to strangely grow on you, a guilty pleasure of a song.

Still these half positive reviews of songs are about the best things on the album. The vast majority are either complete atonal perversions of music (Your Life is a Lie might just be the most annoying song I've ever heard), or overproduced into oblivion. For the latter see Introspection, a perfectly lovely cover of an obscure song from the 1960s which is almost ruined by the excessive and unnecessary filters and special effects. The chorus itself is almost inaudible thanks to the ridiculous post-processing.

Unfortunately it is hard to recommend this album to anyone. Beyond one or two worthwhile songs the rest seems a shadow of what this band is capable. Weird for the sake of weird doesn't make an album clever or fresh.

Must Listen:
Alien Days
Cool Song No. 2

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