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Clever boys, that MGMT. Having cemented their place in the eternal pop firmament with ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ a decade ago (yes, you’re fucking old, get over it) they’ve since done what all brainy acts do given half a chance, releasing a brace of impenetrable, bafflingly self-indulgent records.
However, artsy-fartiness out of their system, Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser are back. And how better to return to our hearts and airwaves than with this masterfully-crafted, accessible-if-somewhat on-the-nose, LP.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Little Dark Age. But it’s fair to ask: in their willingness to stuff the electro-prog-genie back in the bottle, did MGMT really need to resort to such song titles as ‘She Works Out Too Much’, or ‘TSLAMP [Time Spent Looking At My Phone]’?
Well, yeah, actually. And besides, the former is a lovably knuckle-headed VHS workout video parody, and the latter is a menacing time capsule that will, mark my words, sound devastating in another decade’s time.
Everything here is vivid and enticing. Sweet, shiny, crowd-pleasing – like a freshly-opened tin of biscuits, or a GIF of a baby laughing, or a rainbow.
Why? Because, compared to past efforts, Little Dark Age isn’t just a glorified exercise in beatmaking. There’s an earnestness about the album, which is perhaps one-part impeccable delivery and two-parts awesome song-craft. I found myself caring, deeply, about the protagonists, ‘Michael’ and ‘James’. Death is a bit of a theme, but the shiny metallic production reassures you they’re probably only discussing dying in a video-game sense.
It isn’t afraid to have a laugh, either. I’ve never been so happy to be told ‘go fuck yourself’ as in ‘When You Die.’
Always a bit of a druggy act, the only real narcotic allusion is on ‘James’ which, apparently, MGMT wrote during an acid trip. Honestly, though, it’s the weakest song on the record. Unless for some daft reason you like The Beatles’ ‘Blue Jay Way.’ Never forget LSD is lovely and all, but not when it comes to getting shit done.
Anyway, the album barrels along at a lively clip, but never feels rushed. Hall And Oates-esque ‘Me And Michael isn’t so much driving as sashaying. ‘The One Thing Left To Try’ isn’t so much driving as cruising, wearing reflective aviators, into a 16-bit sunset.
Nothing ever peters out, or gets boring. Again, thanks to masterful songwriting and seasoned execution, there’s always a nice hooky bit, or zesty little motif to hold your interest into the fade-out. Refreshingly, for 2018, MGMT keep it four-to-the-floor (save the ditzy waltz of ’Days That Got Away’) and refuse to spin off into the pulsating mandalas of contemporary trap production. Drake, this isn’t.
So yeah. It’s a clever, accomplished record that demonstrates real emotional maturity, hammered into smart-pop-song shape, which never really dips in pace or quality. Clever boys, that MGMT.
Words: Andy Hill
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