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Music Review: MGMT

You really have to give the guys of MGMT credit for doing their own thing. Their album “Oracular Spectacular” exploded onto the music scene in 2007, playing everywhere from indie radio stations to crowded dance floors. The infectious pop sound of songs like 'Time to Pretend' and 'Kids' appealed to almost everybody.

Then, for a few years, everybody held their breath, waiting to see what the group would release next. Expectations were incredibly high. When their second album, “Congratulations,” was released in 2010, there was a sense of near-universal disappointment. The casual fans who had happily danced to the first album sadly set the second one aside. The ones that remained became the “real fans”: the ones who grudgingly accepted MGMT's turn toward a significantly less mainstream sound.

That time has come again. MGMT has released their new album. Are they going to alienate their fans yet again?

The fairly clear answer is yes.

In the span of three albums, MGMT's music has transformed from fun pop songs into incredibly convoluted compositions. This progression is almost perfectly captured in the opening track, 'Alien Days.' The song starts out with catchy melodies and logical instrumentation. By the end, the track is oozing with random synthesizer noises and electronic mush. From that point on, the album fluctuates between utter madness and a discombobulating, but mellow, trip. Songs like the dark and atmospheric 'I Love You Too, Death' have barely any discernible chords or melodies for listeners to latch onto. On the other hand, it's the upbeat mood of 'Plenty of Girls in the Sea' makes it the most listenable song on the album.

It occurred to me many times throughout this album that MGMT may have lost at their own game. In the years since they released their first album, several artists have stepped in to flesh out and evolve the genre that MGMT helped create. Artists like Washed Out took the breathy vocals and atmospheric synths to a whole new level. Others, such as Alt-J, took the eerie harmonies and jumping melodies and created an entirely new style. In short, MGMT simply aren't good enough to justify their weirdness.

There is no doubt that there is a great album buried somewhere within these tracks. The potential is so frustratingly close. But for a band that often doesn’t play their most popular song live, MGMT might not be worried about greatness. They are doing what they love without caring what the public will think. I suppose that’s good because, sadly, it seems like this might just end up being another album that whittles down MGMT’s fan base.


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