RELEASE DATE 17.9.2013
5.9 | 10
If there was any anticipation for MGMT’s self-titled third album, it quickly evaporated with the release of “Alien Days,” which saw Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden not shying away from the spastic, frustrating groundwork first laid down on the band’s polarizing 2010 album Congratulations. While “Alien Days” was ultimately accepted by some (okay, me), it was evident that the band which soundtracked multiple college freshmen’s drunkest nights was more interested in hanging out with the kids dropping acid down the hall. While Congratulations could be forgiven for being an intentional ploy from the bandmembers to distance their music from the associations garnered by their mainstream breakthrough, MGMT is not allowed such grievances. Instead of expanding on their craziest impulses in meaningful ways, there is no rhyme or reason to the majority of this new record.
After “Alien Days” opens the album, “Cool Song No. 2” struts in with a promising beginning highlighted by a dark, rumbling bass, before unraveling with muddled vocals that don’t offer much in the form of melody, either. The song gets slightly better in the second half, which is largely an instrumental affair. The duo’s other attempts at creating captivating instrumentals fall flat. The intro to “A Good Sadness” wanders aimlessly before being slightly reigned in by something resembling a melody. But even worse is “I Love You Too, Death,” which sees MGMT trying their hand at ambient, drone-like electronica. While the song attempts to build momentum with an effective acoustic guitar chord progression midway through, there’s quite frankly nothing to build towards.
The most confounding moment occurs when the duo trots out “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea,” which has to be a joke, although I’m still trying to find the punchline. It’s a jumbled and confused track, with no instruction other than “MORE.” Lyrically, “Sea” is a notch below whichever song it is where Ke$ha sings about her coochie. A lyrical excerpt from the song goes something like, “There’s plenty of girls in the sea / and plenty of them are not women,” which is delivered as clumsily in practice as it is on the written page.
While MGMT has the best odds at this point of going down as the duo’s worst album, there are a few moments that offer us hope that the future won’t be so dark for Goldwasser and VanWyngarden. On “Introspection,” the duo offers up perhaps their best track since Oracular Spectacular, as angelic, choral background vocals and a tremolo guitar effect (recalling “Crimson and Clover”) combine with other assorted sounds to create a truly cathartic moment. It turns out to be only a temporary respite from the surrounding chaos, as before long we’re back treading through the muck, with MGMT acting as tour guides, wondering why we we’re surprised to find ourselves here in the first place. But then you come to think about it, and realize you aren’t surprised by this direction, or lack thereof, taken by MGMT. No, not surprised, but disappointed. Disappointed that this ending was also the most predictable.