MGMT RETURNS TO POP GLORY ON ‘LITTLE DARK AGE’ (ALBUM REVIEW)
MGMT continues the inside joke of their satirical songwriting on their latest album,Little Dark Age, with a tip of the hat to convention. Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden wrote their mega-pop hits “Kids”, “Time to Pretend”, and “Electric Feel” as tongue in cheek, but the songs ended up changing the pop music landscape and both musician’s lives. Now after nearly a decade of disappointing mainstream pop fans with 2010’s Congratulations and 2013’s MGMT, the duo has tapped back into writing synth hooks and radio-ready singles.
While Little Dark Age isn’t a parade of globe-dominating hits, it has its moments, particularly with its self-titled first single “ Little Dark Age.” The single reverberates like a Tears For Fears meets Gary Numan symbiosis, and has an infectious albeit darkened chorus that is just as dance-centric as “Kids.” While “Little Dark Age” is the most radio-friendly track, the true gem of the album appears to be “When You Die,” which features a placid, aired-out beat that contains some of the most vitriolic lyrics to come out of VanWyngarden’s mouth. “Go fuck yourself/You heard me right/ Don’t call me nice, again!”
Vaporwave rears it’s annoyingly addictive head on “Me and Michael” which has a John Hughes meets retro-French pop aura. “TSLAMP” (Time Spent Looking At My Phone) unveils MGMT’s age with an ode to criticizing phone addicts. “James” is dedicated to the band’s touring guitarist who seemingly functions as the glue in the band’s relationship.
“Days That Got Away” is an ambling electro-scape that serves as filler and a lead-in into “One Thing Left To Try” which ushers disco-elements into the chorus and has enviable chord changes coalescing with VanWyngarden’s falsetto. The profound, byzantine songwriting of the last two albums leaks into “When You’re Small” and “Hand It over” which tamper down the electro-dance vibe of previous tracks and evoke a pensive, pseudo-Ariel Pink vibe.
While MGMT has made sure to stay true to themselves and write the music that they want to write as artists, Little Dark Age gives a tip of the hat to mainstream listeners, and a sigh of relief to hit-hungry record executives. The psych-loving group has reigned in their cerebral, rabbit-hole, exploratory tunes to craft ten synth-heavy hits and yet haven’t lost themselves while doing it. While pop songs may bore Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, they may have become even more bored with hearing how they’re a one album wonder, and Little Dark Age is sure to remedy that.