MGMT follows the beat of its own drum machine on new album

The band’s latest psychedelic release, “MGMT,” was released Sept. 17.

Special to the Tribune

MGMT’s new self-titled album launches the group further away from the mainstream onto their own psychedelic plantet.

In 2008, MGMT released their debut album “Oracular Spectacular.” Unleashing their own brand of psychedelic rock, the duo of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden was on top of the world, dominating the charts with singles like “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel”.  Rolling Stone went as far as naming it the 18th best album of the decade and the 57th greatest debut album of all time.

“Congratulations,” the 2010 follow-up to MGMT’s debut album, suffered from a sophomore slump. The band’s second attempt veered toward a more cerebral and psychedelic aesthetic, alienating casual listeners and angering fans in the process. Die-hard fans complained about the lack of mainstream pop singles like “Kids,” and the absence of upbeat dance hits like “Electric Feel.”

Fans wanting to hear more “Oracular Spectacular”  and less “Congratulations” will be disappointed in MGMT’s latest effort.The songs struggle to find common ground, and the sporadic nature of the album’s sound makes it hard to categorize. The mood of the album is seldom consistent, changing from one song to the next with no coherent transition. Upbeat tracks laced with engaging lyrics and stirring rhythm are followed by dull songs lacking the signature MGMT flair.

Strong entries on the album include “Introspection” and “Plenty of Girls in the Sea.” MGMT borrowed “Introspection” from Faine Jade, the original writers and performers of the song. This retro track from an obscure 60’s psychedelic band harmonizes well with the experimental nature of the rest of the album.

But “Plenty of Girls in the Sea” is the furthest thing from experimental. The song is the most radio-friendly track on the album, and also, its best. It is no surprise that the best executed song is the one that returns to the glory days of “Oracular Spectacular,” the one that capitalizes on the upbeat tempo that MGMT fans know and love.

The band has releases this album’s songs through a myriad of mediums, both old and new. The first single, “Alien Days,” was released as a cassette tape on Record Story Day 2013, and. the second single, “Your Life is a Lie,” was released in conjunction with a video containing singing skeletons, squirrel-suited men, and condiments used to write song lyrics on the stomachs of overweight men.

Goldwasser and VanWyngarden are often described as reluctant rock stars, disinterested with their mainstream reputation, with no ambitions to recapture their earlier success. Their live performances rely heavily on the use of videos which take attention away from the band who seldom engage with the crowd. It is this disinterest in fame and success that spawned “MGMT.”

“It was a fluke that these goofy songs we wrote in college were hits. We never considered that people would like them,” Goldwasser said recently in an interview with Pitchfork. If anything, this validates the bands latest album and confirms MGMT’s desire to make music for themselves and not at the demands of their most intense fans.

3.5 out of 5 stars