Rather than trying to build upon the stylistic strengths of 2010’s Congratulations — which hinted at genius but never quite got beyond posturing — MGMT primaries Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser still seem to be feeling creative growing pains with a follow-up that draws on too many mind-bending influences at once. As a result, MGMT’s eponymous third outing on Columbia feels like an over-wrought, over-thought kitchen sink of psychedelia.
MGMT starts promisingly enough with the dreamy spaceship-expansive sparkle of “Alien Days.” The lilting child vocals opening the track are joined by the elder intonations of VanWyngarden in brief harmonies that segue to his solo murmurs over the lush Bowiesque glam rock arrangements. “Cool Song No. 2” slinks and undulates, drum machine pulses filled out by layers of organic percussive texture and sing-song lyrical calls. Even the fuzz-noise reading of Faine Jade’s obscure 1967 track “Introspection” is a mildly pleasant foray.
The broken-record stomp and cowbell plonk of “Your Life Is a Lie” sets the second half’s abrasive, mind-bending tone, its flat vocals and monotonous instrumentals at odds with the scornful condescension of its lyrics. The remaining five tracks are a fractured mess of modernity, from electro-synthesized walls-of-sound that rattle, buzz, whirr and swirl together, to the more inelegantly bare instrumentals and hazy lackluster sci-fi sonicscapes packed with sonic flotsam, some of it — like the deep sub-bass groans in the background of “I Love You Too, Death” and watery burbles and blurps of “Plenty of Girls in the Sea” — more interesting than the songs themselves. Set-closer “An Orphan of Fortune” is imbued with a feeling of resignation, its atmospheric post rock washes and strains of wavering melodica ending in a blast of fuzzy farting synth incontinence.
Ultimately the album feels disingenuous, rendered by a band so focused on creating some sort of electric Kool-aid acid test in musical form and shedding the chains of fame and pop accessibility that the music lost its warm beating heart somewhere along the way. (Critics' Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars.)