New Album: 'MGMT' by MGMT


When you were a kid did you ever have a good friend - a close friend you respected and trusted and who maybe had impeccable musical taste - move away? Maybe they moved back after a few years; a few long, slow years while you grew apart and grew up, and they were totally different. The intelligent, caring friend you knew and trusted was gone, replaced by some obnoxious, snot-nosed jackass who didn’t know music from noise. You’d grown up and they’d never left adolescence. That’s sort of how I feel about MGMT.

When I first heard the psych-pop duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser on Oracular Spectacular I was blown away, downright impressed. Never had I heard “electronic” music with such compelling melody, catchy hooks, innovative ideas – MGMT might not have been blazing a new trail, but it was a catchy one nonetheless. Those were heady days in the fall of 2007.

By 2010 some of the magic had faded. It had been three years since Oracular and fans were starting to wonder what had become of MGMT. Then came the lackluster Congratulations. Arriving to critical acclaim and a resounding “meh” from the majority of fans, Congratulations fell flat. It wasn’t “Kids,” and that was OK, but it just wasn’t very good either. When MGMT called their own album, “a collection of nine individual musical tours de force,” all I heard them saying was: “We’re getting kind of desperate.”

Then came another three year wait, a time where we didn’t hear much from the boys of MGMT. People started to talk, wondering if they were done, victims of too much fame and too many drugs, like so many before them. Not MGMT though, they still had more up their sleeves.

MGMT is the third album by the eponymous duo, and it’s definitely… something.

MGMT would be groundbreaking if it had been recorded in 1967. It’s got some of the psych and none of the pop of Oracular. It’s even more misguided than Congratulations. It sounds a lot like Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett crashed into the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds, but not in a good way, in a horrible fiery wreck with multiple casualties kind of way.

I’ve listened to MGMT three times now. Three times just to try and glean a little bit of insight into what MGMT was trying to achieve here. I still have no idea. There’s no cohesion, at all. It veers from the cheap, clumsy Flaming Lips knockoff that is “Alien Days” to the trite 80’s pop nonsense of “Plenty of Girls in the Sea” (which also offers some of the only discernible lyrics on the album).

MGMT are taking themselves far too seriously. Maybe six years of fame has gone to their heads, or maybe this was their vain attempt at an “art” album, either way they’ve failed miserably here. VanWyngarden has said, of MGMT, “It’s just what’s coming out of us.” So it’s kind of like crap then? Yeah, I would agree with that.

There’s no substance here. They’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done 10,000 times before by every act since the 60’s. MGMT has lost all of their swagger, the joie de vivre that made them so exciting and entertaining when they dropped Oracular. MGMT is uninspired, regurgitated, and just fucking boring.

VanWyngarden, whilst being self-deprecating (or smug-as-hell) said, "I don't even know if it's music we would want to listen to,” referring to MGMT. Guess what, asshole, if you don’t wanna listen to it there’s a good chance no one else does either. If it doesn’t even make you, its creator, interested in hearing it, then there’s a solid likelihood that no else wants to listen either.

Man, fame does some fucked up things to people.

So what does this all mean for our once-beloved MGMT? Will they be relegated to the annals of formerly great acts? Languish in musical limbo, riding the fame and goodwill of fans unwilling to let them go? Their fate remains uncertain.

One thing is apparent though: the MGMT many of us knew and loved is no more, has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet their maker. This is the late MGMT.