ALBUM REVIEW: MGMT – Little Dark Age
After a break from working so closely together, the main duo of MGMT (Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser) have been working from afar on a new LP – Little Dark Age – the much anticipated follow up to their 2013 self-titled 3rd album and it is proper.
Best known for their early singles (and smash-hits for indie fans) ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’, in some eyes their situation could be deemed difficult to better (as is with the case of many bands with hard-core fans). With an ever-evolving sound, MGMT are faced with the challenge to stay fresh and exciting yet not neglect the sound their fans might look for. Though, the band have held a steady course and are dedicated to keep their sound diverse at the same time very much ‘them’. The new offering comes under the name Little Dark Age – with it come those sounds, yet evolved. If you like previous MGMT uniqueness with a twist of gothic 80’s electronica, this will be yours straight away.
Let’s begin – here’s my track run-through of MGMT ‘s ‘Little Dark Age’:
She Works Out Too Much – A hard hitting electro-pop start to the album with a lot going on. “the only reason it didn’t work out is I didn’t work out enough…” There’s Sax on here… don’t tell Liam whatever you do! Top tune with lyrics that soundtrack real life pressures, hinting at a likeness to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’.
Little Dark Age: Everything you want from MGMT, with their trade mark sound oozing out of the title track – heavy synth and a groove that also echoes Oracular Spectacular & the grammy-winning staples it evoked. The state of the US divide can be heard plenty in the tone and lyrics, giving a new meaning to the ‘Little Dark Age’ going on in America currently.
When You Die: The electro-pop seen throughout the opener continues, though this time throwing in a burgeoning dance beat. When You Die oozes a feel for fighting back against what is unacceptable, with lyrics spitting a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on being affected by life. “Words don’t do anything… We’ll all be laughing with you when you die…”. Morbid.
Me and Michael: 80’s electro Japanese with vocals worthy of that of being akin to the height of new-wave. With Michael and ‘Me’ being the centre of the track and its strong 80’s synth pop roots, this eeriness would be perfectly slotted into the huge Lost Boys soundtrack. (maybe it’s due a remake… here’s a theme to crack on with). It sounds retro – everything good about 80’s music in a nostalgic, catchy package.
TSLAMP: “Time spent all alone, time spent looking at my phone…” Similar to opening track, ‘She Works Out Too Much’, lyrics convey having a life dictated to you. With a very similar 80’s influence, and much like the recent Field Music smash ‘Count it up’, MGMT have made it sound like they have been plucked directly from an era gone-by and still very much worshipped.
James: A psych-Rock MGMT supply beats & synth a-plenty with some dark vocals on this one. “Who’s laughing now…” the song starts with laughter (maybe the band laughing off the tongue in cheek seriousness of the song?), best described with something of a comedy-synth backing, similar to the likes of the classic ‘Fantastic Man’ by William Onyeabor. Over the years, MGMT have been associated with and have worked with Flaming Lips – this comes through on this ‘James’ with a weirdness that will sound very big live. A great tune. Squelchy.
Days That Got Away: Another Psychedelic beaut with some perfect cosmic driven sounds. ‘Days That Got Away’ will fit nicely into any Balearic set and the bass synth half way through is quite exquisite – keep an ear out for it.
One Thing Left To Try: Longstanding MGMT fans will be happy with this one, being the most typically MGMT sounding track on the album. With a suitable nod to electro-pop, distorted vocals & rolling synths, this is one is a banger. “You wanna keep us alive…” – lyrics are again mantra-heavy and wholly catching.
When You’re Small: The typical gentle track of the album, and another song with a similar weird-experimental element like predecessor ‘James’, though on a slower spatial backdrop and building to a brilliant tapas spread of synths and keys. I’m looking forward to hearing this one, dark and large, in the festival season. – standout, for sure.
Hand It Over: Another gentle outro-duction to the diversity of the MGMT sound on Little Dark Age. Hand It Over sits perfectly next to ‘When You’re Small’ with the mantra of ‘Hand It Over’, whilst backing vocals are swirled into the echoing synths. The latest offering is rounded up beautifully – diverse and well worth popping on the playlist. It’s bounding round our ears – it might not be an outrightly mainstream album, but it’s certainly a grower and a clever and welcome return for duo bringing the 80s back in 2018. (Or should that be two-thousand-and-eighty?)