Tunes for the Tranquilized

MGMT exploded into public consciousness with three singles.

Published: November 9, 2013 1:23:34 am

Album: MGMT

Artist: MGMT

Music: Columbia

Price: $11.88 on Amazon.com

Rating: ***

Shantanu David

MGMT exploded into the public consciousness with three singles — Kids,Electric feel and Time to pretend (from their debut album Oracular Spectacular) — the last of which got a lot of play,thanks to the opening credits of the cult hit 21. The band,founded by vocalists/guitarists/synth-players Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser,brought psychedelic rock back into the mainstream. With their second album,Congratulations,they left behind synthpop and moved into a territory dominated by guitar. Their third self-titled album,MGMT,finds them deeper in the mushroom forest,cranking out music that is firmly in their own style. The album gets better every time you listen to it,with a few tracks clearly working. Others not so much.

The album kicks,or rather meanders,off from the static-laced Alien days,weirdly wonderful from its prelude (and subsequent chorus) of a child’s vocals. Cool song no.2,the album’s cynical-cum-whimsical second track,is bass-heavy,with The Phantom of the Opera-style piano solo and vocal acrobatics that would put a capella group on its toes. The piano work plays a more prominent role in Mystery disease,a pure psychedelic pop-rock complete with all the right distortions. The nostalgia really takes off with the duo’s Introspection,a cover of a track by the uber-obscure ’60s psychedelic band,Faine Jade. Your life is a lie is a riff-y,heavy-on-distortion ditty as is A good sadness.

Astro-mancy is one of those long profitless journeys with no clear destination in mind. Nor is it actually reached,but maybe that’s the whole point of the track. If John Mayer can plan a trip to Japan when he’s stoned (“on which he won’t even go”,goes the song),one can totally see MGMT on a head trip through space on whatever “unprescribable” pharmaceutical they’re on. I love you too,death is one of the stand-out tracks — an eerie,shimmery number which is so similar to The Velvet Underground that one almost expects Nico to join in the chorus. It doesn’t help that VanWyngarden’s vocals are nigh identical to Lou Reed’s and the track follows a very similar musical progression to Underground’s Heroin. Plenty of girls in the sea and Orphan of fortune finish off the album to a vaguely mellifluous sound,but leave you without any electric feel.

shantanu.david@expressindia.com

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