Skip to main content
MGMT | Photo: Jonah Freeman
MGMT | Photo: Jonah Freeman
Pavel Zelinka -

MGMT Break Through the Mist to the Indie Pop Light on the New Album

After years of silence, Indie pop stars MGMT took a return trajectory to their roots. Their new album Loss Of Life still floats in the psychedelic reaches of the universe, unlike some of its predecessors it doesn't forget the pop hooks, and for the first time acknowledges the passage of time. Bitter-sweet and believable.

Astronauts Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser made a rash entry into their musical careers. First, they launched a few ultra-explosive singles into media space (most notably the hits Time To Pretend, Electric Feel and Kids), and to the celebratory roar of the media, their shuttle lifted off in thick smoke towards the stratosphere in 2008. Here, musical rules don't apply, and so in a state of weightlessness, with every new album, the musicians moved further and further away from the classic songwriting canon. After the release of their untitled third record, it seemed they were about to leave our solar system, but follow-up Little Dark Age suggested that Andrew and Ben had changed course and were subtly moving closer to home. This is confirmed by this year's fifth full-length album, Loss Of Life, which brings the space travellers into Earth's orbit. What does this mean in the end?

Psychedelia in pop is an interesting ingredient. A kind of subtle acid. It can morph a solid mainstream shell into interesting new shapes, but if left on the original material for too long, it can disintegrate it beyond recognition or use. Not that MGMT's second and especially third albums in a row, which were significantly "attacked" by psychedelia, weren't interesting. I imagine that these are the peaks of their efforts to date for a certain segment of listeners on the same trajectory. In any case, I don't blame the publishing juggernaut Columbia Records for not renewing their publishing partnership with the pair.

The journey of the space dreamers reminds me of a similar story of former dance stars Future Sound of London, whose psychedelic impulses forced them to create a new project Amorphous Androgynous floating on a similar 70s feeling-infused cloud. MGMT have begun to revisit a tighter song form with the new record and to return to every day in their lyrics, as well. Suddenly, after the looser imagery of the first half of the album dissolves, they tackle existential themes in Nothing Changes, and even the harmfulness of stimulant overuse (!!!) in the penultimate I Wish I Was Joking. But the final, almost baroque title track takes the doubts into a final meditation, where the future still has a positive charm after all. The "loss of life", as the title of the album threatens, fortunately does not occur.

What is interesting for you, as musicians, on the record?

Already the list of collaborators, including Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, mixing the record), Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse (production assistance), Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never, mixing, "Phradie's Song"), Nils Cline (Wilco, guitar in "Mother Nature"), Sean Lennon (keyboards in "Bubblegum Dog") and Christine And The Queens (vocals in "Dancing In Babylon") promise a pretty colourful musical trip. The list of pop-psychedelic individuals is missing perhaps only Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips.

The album isn't just a psychedelic 70s gloss. Or an imitation of the super-successful pop debut Oracular Spectacular, though it continues to benefit from those ingredients. Loss Of Life offers more. The delightfully arranged "Nothing Changes" is reminiscent of The Beatles' Sergeant, the similarly generous "Dancing In Babylon", albeit in an unconcealed eighties Supertramp vein, or the similarly decade-inspired "People In The Street", with its distinctive fretless bass recalling the more introverted work of Kate Bush.

Despite rummaging through their private jukebox, MGMT still offered a distinctly above-average indie pop experience on their new record Loss Of Life which can be returned to repeatedly. Melancholic listeners with a soft spot for French Air or the contemporary work of Beck will especially find it to their liking.

MGMT - Loss Of Life

MGMT – Loss Of Life

Mom+Pop Music; 45:14, 2024

75 %

Tagy MGMT album review

If you have found an error or typo in the article, please let us know by e-mail

Pavel Zelinka
Music editor and program manager of Czech Radio (Radio Wave, Czech Radio Vltava), author (UNI Magazine, HISVoice, ex-Rock&Pop, ex-Rock&All, and others) and organizer of gothic concerts.