Straight off the bat, Little Dark Age is the best album MGMT have produced since their debut, Oracular Spectacular. Finally, the pair in Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, have returned to a sound that more closely resembles the electro-pop hits of their debut that brought them critical and commercial success.
Their last two albums, 2011’s Congratulations and 2013’s MGMT, didn’t capture anywhere near the amount of success Oracular Spectacular did, so it’s fair to assume MGMT have crumbled to the pressures of critics and failed album sales. But who’s to care when the duo is making an overdue return to form? Certainly not me.
Little Dark Age contains some hits and misses, it’s just what we’ve come to expect from MGMT. However, this time it’s easier to cop, as the good far outweighs the bad.
Little Dark Age’s blend of synth-pop and psychedelia motions a return to form for MGMT. The group found success on Oracular Spectacular when they were producing youthful pop bangers that are still party favourites. But over their last two albums, where fuzzy psych expeditions dominated, MGMT failed to deliver on their early success. On Little Dark Age, MGMT has found a happy medium between pop and psych.
The best example of the prevalent synth-pop with a psych tinge is album-opener ‘She Works Out Too Much’, which may be suspiciously influenced by Mario’s Rainbow Road. With a funky bass-line and saxophone thrown into the mix, it’s a track that will eventually win listeners over.
Little Dark Age’s second single, ‘When You Die’, noticeably featuring Ariel Pink, is the most obvious psych-pop track on the record. It’s also extremely impressionable, showing MGMT haven’t lost their ability to write catchy hooks.
The most striking feature of Little Dark Age is the backflip MGMT make from their fuzzy psych of Congratulations and their self-titled effort back into pop – namely synth-pop. The brilliant lead single, ‘Little Dark Age’, indicated the direction MGMT was headed on this album. The change in strategy is no failure – if anything, it’s a roaring success. But it does get overly cheesy when the all-too-bright synths of ‘Me and Michael’ begin, a track closely resembling ICEHOUSE’s ‘Electric Blue’. Cringe.
‘Me and Michael’ signals a chain of songs throughout the middle of the record that takes it a bit too far. Following ‘Me and Michael’, there’s the social-commentating ‘TSLAMP’ (Time Spent Looking At My Phone), embedding a tropical flavour within the sugary synths. Then another ode to a friend, ‘James’, continues the over-indulgence of high-spirited synths. It’s all a little too much, and MGMT sound considerably better on ‘Little Dark Age’ and ‘One Thing Left To Try’, synth-pop inflicted cuts containing a dark undercurrent.
‘Little Dark Age’, ‘When You Die’ and ‘One Thing Left To Try’