MGMT’s newest self-titled album confuses more often than it illuminates. The duo lacks a clear artistic direction and style, as weirdness appears to be the only intended effect from the band’s album. The album lacks direction, unlike the previous two, which include thoughtful concepts like longing for simple childhood pleasures or introspective revelation.
The duo of Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden attempts to re-evaluate such insights on the overly blatant track “Introspection,” with VanWyngarden’s vocals chanting, “There’s a season when I will find out where I am/And there’s a reason, and I will someday find the plan.” These lyrics seem trite when compared to older mantras like “But there’s really nothing, nothing we can do/Love must be forgotten/Life can always start up anew,” from the earlier single “Time To Pretend.”
This album’s marketed single and ridiculous music video, “Your Life Is a Lie,” attempts to explain how our lives are in fact a lie. The only lie exposed is the promise that VanWyngarden makes, “I’ll tell you why.” He apparently forgot to disillusion the audience about existence beyond using buzzwords and clichéd phrases such as “everyone left” and “hollow inside” without ever really questioning reality with insight.
In an interview from the French magazine Brain, the two describe the sound on this album as a contrasting trio, “American psychedelic and Californian sunshine-y pop [and] English music from the ‘80s.” The three genres have yet to ever combine on an album and for good reasons. They don’t mesh together coherently. Rather, they often borrow or were formed from one another.
Equally vexing is the frequent underexposure of VanWyngarden’s − and occasionally Goldwasser’s − famously enchanting and mellow vocals. The producer elected to emphasize cluttered and inconsistent synthesized beats.
Layers upon layers of varied sounds from noisy drums to vibrations to out-of-tune flutes, the sounds never combine to create a tone or theme for the album. Inconsistency will drive most away from this album, as each track has nothing in common with the next, and transitions are almost always forgotten.
This is not a new problem for MGMT, as previous albums had canyons worth of dissonance between singles and other tracks. Only two tracks barely distinguish themselves from others: the vibrant and colorful-sounding intro to “Alien Days” and the whimsical imagery in the second half of “I Love You Too, Death.” The latter invokes a very mellow and calming atmosphere like a great Animal Collective album such as Feels or Sung Tongs. The rest of the album emotes only weirdness stacked upon more confusion.
As weirdness is not interesting on its own, especially for 10 or any number of tracks on any album, it’s no wonder most folks from Geneseo explained that they were not ecstatic post-concert last year. Most will have a similar response after hearing this album. Even the most devoted MGMT fans are likely to be left confused and disappointed by MGMT.