Review: MGMT — Little Dark Age

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 at 7:19 PM
Review: MGMT — Little Dark Age by Britton Rozzelle

★★☆☆☆

Alternative psych rockers MGMT are back after a disappointing third album, “MGMT” — this time touting synthwave expertise and club-styled beats that are more in tune with the modern alt scene. Feeling more like a rebirth of the band rather than a continuation of the one that made “Electric Feel,” “Kids” and “Siberian Breaks,” “Little Dark Age” feels like an album that oozes confidence in their sound, but its not enough to mask the confusion and disconnect between this step and their old style.

As is the current state of 2018’s music, a lot of this record feels very one-note, with hints at deeper meaning or creativity, but nothing concrete enough to latch onto. The first few tracks scream 80s synth/new wave, sounding like an electric-shocked dream of a John Hughes film mixed and muddled with the wit and bite of MGMT’s lyrics. “Me and Michael” outshines the intro and title track, cashing in on this new, “Kim and Jesse”-era M83 sound, and creating a fun enough song that straddles the line between synth and vaporwave. You can almost taste the VHS tracking.

“TSLAMP” takes us to a late 80s Saharan excursion, with story and emotion (things that seem to be sorely missing on other tracks) that match the exotic-sounding production aspects. Thematically, it’s close to “Congratulations,” but musically it fits with the experimental nature of this album. “James” is another standout, being a lighthearted, warm and decidedly modern alt-pop song that will absolutely be used as a backdrop for a party scene in an MTV or VH1 original show about teenagers, mark my words.

The distorted world we’re introduced to in “Days that got away” is enticing, though not wholly unique, with production mirroring a Washed Out album that melds (relatively effectively) with the classic tenor of MGMT’s Singer. It’s jammy, otherworldly and full of sound, but up against “One thing left to try,” it comes across as one note by its place in the run-time, like the band ran out of new ideas to try and capitalize on. However, the album as a whole fits next to the (sort of old-hat) 80s revival that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

“Little Dark Age” closes off with with “When you’re small,” a cheesy ballad that I’m sure has mroe meaning than what comes across at face value that morphs into a psychadelic folk anthem worthy of note on this tracklist, and while “Hand it Over” effectively follows suit, it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression (much like the rest of the album).

Ultimately, “Little Dark Age” is a technically fine piece of music from one of the most creative  bands this side of the millennium, but it serves more as a proof of concept for where the band wants to go in the future, not as a solid album. It fails to leave much of a particularly lasting impression, and usually when that happens I usually learn to love the piece, or never listen to it again.

I guess time will tell.

Standout tracks: “Me and Michael,” “James.”

Stream below:

Britton Rozzelle can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com.

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