by Miles Rowland

MGMT’s so-called ‘career suicide’ was well publicised when they released their second album, Congratulations, in 2010 - mainly because it lacked the more radio friendly songs like Kids which had been the bedrock of their mainstream popularity. The album was a strange and trippy affair which divided critics and fans alike; some criticised the band for deliberately sabotaging what had brought them success, whilst others lauded its more challenging nature which rewarded multiple listens.

The American duo have somehow succeeded in making themselves even more unfathomable on their self-titled third album however, and anyone hoping for a return to Time to Pretend should look elsewhere. Alien Days, featuring unsettling childish vocals, trippy synths and dissonant guitar riffs might seem odd enough, but compared to the rest of the album the track’s clear melody makes it the most mainstream piece on MGMT. Your Life Is A Lie would share that accolade: a two minute rant filled with the duo’s custom nihilism and featuring surely the most prominent use of a cowbell in musical history. Yet the needless descent into cacophony in Alien Days is a worrying sign of things to come - it is as if the band realised late in production that the track wasn’t weird enough and simply messed it up a bit.

Mystery Disease whirls into action with a noise like a landing spaceship and is one of the stronger tracks here, defined by thumping drums and yet more mindbending synths. The track is somehow affecting in a tortured tragic way, and the piano chords at the end are a great touch. Introspection on the other hand is a well-chosen cover of a Faine Jade song, a more conventional guitar-driven psychedelic rock track with a chorus that recalls Tame Impala.

A Good Sadness later on in the album is similarly melancholic and atmospheric to Mystery Disease, but the track is something of an aimless wall of sound which has no real direction, and a good example of the frustration that pervades even repeated listens of this album. The back end of the album follows suit; forgettable mists of psychedelia and synths that have been sucked dry of even the semi-melodies that made Congratulations an entertaining listen.

It seems, then, that MGMT have simply gone too far in their effort to separate themselves from the music industry. In fact, at times during MGMT they remove themselves from music itself and cannibalise any merit or tune that they clearly still possess the ability to write. The band’s almost sickening self-importance is summed up by lines like:

And when the west wind sweeps through the leaves, emperors of history fall to their knees.

There are glimmers of hope in the first half of the album that perhaps MGMT might one day return to writing glorious pieces of electro pop. But the second half seems to herald what is truly to come. A convoluted mess.