Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Mike Conlon0
MGMT – MGMT
One of life’s cruel ironies is that those who most desire to be taken seriously almost never are. Donald Trump, despite his menacing scowl, has long been a go-to punchline for comedians and late-night TV hosts. Canada’s equivalent, Conrad Black, must find it baffling that despite his knighthood and expansive vocabulary, he is our nation’s favorite whipping post. And so it goes with MGMT. Since the unexpected mainstream success of their first album, ‘Oracular Spectacular,’ MGMT have been hell-bent on developing a more esoteric sound — a sound that could flag them as a ‘serious’ band. ‘Congratulations’ was their first attempt at this more mature sound and now they’re giving it another go with the self-titled MGMT.
MGMT opens promisingly with ‘Alien Days.’ The track features a child on lead vocals, which actually works well. Next up is ‘Cool Song No. 2’ which does sound cool for the first 10 seconds, until the vocals kick in and destroy all the track’s momentum. From this moment forward the album drags on like a dull school day, with the exception of ‘Your Life is a Lie’ where the band get a little more confrontational; though by this point in the album I doubt anyone will be paying close enough attention to notice. The band also attempts to lighten things up a bit near the end with ‘Plenty of Girls in the Sea,’ but it’s too little too late.
I realize I’m being kind of harsh with this album, but I really did try and enjoy it. In fact, after playing MGMT a couple times and making no headway, I figured I must be approaching it from the wrong headspace. With a newfound sense of resolve, I fired up a philosopher’s cigarette and put on the album for one final listen. No dice — it still sounded distinctly uninspired. Only now I was hungry. So I ate a baloney sandwich and put on ‘Paul’s Boutique.’ MGMT could learn a thing or two from The Beastie Boys. Like MGMT, The Beastie Boys burst onto a scene with a galvanizing first album that unexpectedly propelled them into the mainstream. Except The Beastie Boys never gave a shit what we thought of them, and though they followed up with albums that grew broader in scope, they didn’t devolve into pretentious navel gazing (with the possible exception of ‘To the 5 Boroughs’).
I imagine MGMT envision themselves as noble heroes of a sort. This is the second album in a row they’ve released with almost no prospect of commercial success. They definitely do not bow to at the altar of capitalism — MGMT gives the middle finger to all those MDMA snortin’ scenesters that had ‘Oracular Spectacular’ on repeat back in 2007. Like Bob Dylan in‘65, MGMT have abandoned their core audience. The only difference is ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ ruled.