MAX’S MUSIC BOX: MGMT’s psychedelic rock struggles to find meaning

MGMT’s self-titled album came out Sept. 17, 2013. (Photo used with permission of Creative Commons)

After MGMT’s successful song “Kids,” fans have always expected the band to produce entertaining psychedelic rock. However, MGMT’s new self-titled album is sure to disappoint everyone. The album feels like a jumbled selection of songs that all originated from the band’s evident identity crisis. There aren’t any centralized themes as there were in the previous albums. It’s hard to even classify MGMT as an album because of its lack of meaning. Overall, MGMT struggles to sound like an accomplished band; instead, they struggle to maintain the balance between creativity and general appeal.


1.     After 15 seconds of “Alien Days,” I already knew what I was in for. The song begins with a dreamy synth followed by a small boy that sings the first verse.  The same typical unnecessary weirdness is prominent throughout the album. Over time, acoustic guitars and drums are slowly added.  Singer Andrew VanWyngarden’s voice is easily recognizable, as he still sings in the same shrill, unique way that people have learned to recognize since Oracular Spectacular.  The song isn’t anything special, and I can’t even begin to try to understand the lyrics. It seems like the song is weird for the sole purpose of being weird. (5.5 pts. out of 10)

2.     “Cool Song No. 2” can be described as annoying, all over the place and nonsensical.  At times, I wasn’t even sure if the piano was playing in the right key.  On top of that, the lyrics don’t seem to have any significance. Maybe the lyrics are just too sophisticated for me to understand with verses like, “What if the beast escapes/and separates like a cloud/ seeps into the hollow bones?” Moreover, the song seems pointless without a chorus or recognizable melody.  The lack of anything relatable, be it the lyrics or a chorus, leaves the song hollow. (5/10)

3.     Most of “Introspection” is just noise. Filled with strange sounds, recorders and a heavy baseline, the song is far from enjoyable. Instead of singing, VanWyngarden maintains a middle ground between speaking and singing.  However, “Introspection’s” lyrics begin to make some sense. VanWyngarden sings, “Introspection, what am I really like inside?/Introspection, why have all the prophets lied?/There’s a season where I’ll find out where I really am.”  It seems that the track highlights some kind of existential identity-esque crisis. However, at this point the album has failed to produce an enjoyable song. (5.5/10)

4.     Throughout “Your Life Is A Lie” the cowbell punctuates each phrase as the dominant instrument. The entire song is composed of two chords accompanied by this extremely repetitive banging cowbell. While simple can be good, the song isn’t creative. It just repeats itself over and over with the meaningless phrase “your life is a lie.”  (5/10)

5.     On my first listen, once I got to “A Good Sadness,” I was exhausted. I had had enough of MGMT’s forced deviation from mainstream music. “A Good Sadness” didn’t help. It was another song that made no sense in any respect.  The computer-generated samples didn’t mesh well at all with the song. By adding a ton of random sounds, MGMT made the song bloated rather than interesting.  It just kept going on and on with its distorted bleeping.  And of course the lyrics didn’t have any real meaning with lines like, “I can still hear the reflections in the air/feeding time/it’s summer over there.”  (4/10)

6.     “Astro-Mancy” is another psychedelic nightmare.  It begins with an intense-sounding drum beat and bass riff.  VanWyngarden sings his experimental lyrics barely above a whisper.  The song, following the album’s pattern, doesn’t develop into anything. It merely seems like a gateway into VanWyngarden’s crazy musical mind. It may make sense to VanWyngarden, but I certainly don’t understand the “music” on his record. (4/10)

7.     “I Love You Too, Death” opens with a random assortment of sounds that don’t add anything to the song itself. A flute plays here and a beep plays there. While these don’t enhance the song in any way, there isn’t much to enhance upon anyway. The songs feel empty with the lack of memorable hooks and lyrics.  There’s nothing to latch onto and just enjoy. MGMT leaves the audience with a few random chord progressions accompanied by a few random sounds. (4/10)

8.     “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea” is one of the better songs on the lackluster record.  The intro is interesting, and VanWyngarden actually sings in the beginning. However, the lyrics remain meaningless.  The song’s first words are, “There are plenty of girls in the sea/there are plenty of seeds in a lemon.” I don’t even begin to understand how the two phrases relate to each other.  (5/10)

9.     With a backing track that belongs in an old sci-fi movie, “An Orphan Of Fortune” wraps up MGMT’s worst album thus far.  After VanWyngarden started singing, the whining noises began to grate in my ears. And for the last time, the song didn’t develop into anything.  By the end of the track, I was simply glad that I had endured the whole album.  Almost every tune is alike in that they aren’t complete songs. Mostly, the album is just a collection of random, weird sounds.

Overall Rating: (4/10)


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