What made ‘Oracular Spectacular’ so special was its innate sense of fun and fondness for reckless abandon. It had an almost childlike carefreeness about it; that sort of pseudo-invincible mindset that only a distinctly youthful band, unaware of the consequences of such actions, could possess. Lyrically and musically, ‘MGMT’ is much more mature. Where their debut would unashamedly promote a responsibility-free lifestyle, this looks back and contemplates the repercussions of such a past after reality has set in. The days of the ‘live fast and die young’ vision, so prominent on ‘Time To Pretend’, have well and truly been left behind. There is still a childlike, playful aesthetic at work here, mind. It absolutely permeates through every track. But such a quality only coats the surface of what is, in fact, a deeply cerebral, exploratory journey, documenting the strictly mature ponderings of a band begrudgingly discovering life’s harsh realities and the futile nature of attempted self-appraisal.
Album highlight ‘Introspection’ reflects on the unending mystery of trying to figure out and accept who you really are, ‘there’s a season when I will find out what I am, and there’s a reason, and I will someday find a plan’, while ‘Your Life Is A Lie’ wastes no time beating around the bush, preaching the benefits of a solitary lifestyle ‘your life is a lie, count your friends on your hands, now look again, they’re not your friends, your life is a lie’. The hopeful promise of new love on ‘I Love You To Death’ is instantly followed by a delightfully tongue-in-cheek outlook on bachelorhood in ‘Plenty Of Girls In The Sea’. All these themes focus on those cold and at times bewildering moments in life, but approach them with such a sense of wit and whimsy that it’s impossible not to be completely enthralled.
Musically, it’s full of unexpected and wonderfully surprising twists and turns. Bowie-esque sci-fi sonics combine with The Kinks’ sense of melody and Pink Floyd’s approach to conceptual album writing, all the while sounding entirely contemporary and totally timeless. Fridmann’s trademark production style is stamped all over this record; big drum sounds and a slightly distorted warmth greeting you at every turn. His fondness for evocative, nostalgic synth sounds mesh beautifully with MGMT’s penchant for classic songwriting as well. It may be lacking in any surefire radio hits to match the likes of ‘Electric Feel’ or ‘Kids’, but with no overplayed singles clogging up its perfectly balanced ebb and flow, the album is left entirely free of distraction and can be enjoyed the way it was meant to - in one continuous play.
It’s an immaculate full-length that shows growth and maturity in songwriting and sound, with adult themes cleverly masked by playful sonics that evoke the innocence of childhood. A totally captivating listen; attempting to find fault would be akin to splitting hairs; a pointless task. MGMT haven’t necessarily re-discovered their mojo, but re-imagined it, and in doing so, may well have given us one of the best albums of the year.
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