MGMT, ‘MGMT’ – Album Review
MGMT’s 2007 debut album, ‘Oracular Spectacular,' was by all measures of modern stardom a huge success. The single ‘Time to Pretend’ was the unofficial song of the summer,' and follow-up cuts ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ still get their share of radio plays. It was a revelation, even though the band got dissed for having received liberal arts educations at Wesleyan, and for not being the world’s best showmen or musicians.
‘Time to Pretend’ was also a tongue-in-cheek opus about being young and getting rich and famous -- sort of the aughts version of the Counting Crows’ ‘Mr. Jones.’ (Needless to say, the formula worked, and the album cracked the top 50 on Billboard’s 200.)
The band’s 2010 follow-up made it all the way to No. 2 but failed to have that watershed moment of a single that made ‘Oracular’ such a universal standout. Scuttlebutt was that its tunes were too weird for the radio -- but radio play is no longer the measure of popularity. Viralness, or what "the bloggers" think, seems to be the thermometer these days. The music was good, but the album’s chart position was deceptive, as Billboard only takes into account those folks that still buy albums and presumably haven't yet discovered Spotify or BitTorrent sites. MGMT's fame was definitely dwindling the second time around.
On their third LP, simply titled ‘MGMT,’ the band has strapped itself into a spaceship and left earth altogether. With ‘Oracular’ producer Dave Fridmann -- who has notably guided the Flaming Lips on their long and strange career trip -- at the helm, the band creates its spaciest oddity yet. There's no single to speak of, and the band even has the audacity to sequence a cover song just four tracks in.
But just because the album is a stranger in a straight land doesn’t mean it’s crap. It’s actually highly inventive and trippy in all the right ways. It smacks of bizarro brethren like the recently split Ween and the aforementioned Lips, only it's weirder, if that’s possible. It’s obvious MGMT no longer care about being "pop" -- see the multi-layered likes of ‘A Good Sadness’ or the Massive Attack-y ‘Astro-Mancy’ -- and are looking to distance themselves from how their record label and casual fans want them to sound.
There’s something really, really nice about the sound of freedom.