It’s been eleven long years since MGMT first graced our eardrums with their wonderful breed of psychedelic weirdness, with their debut album Oracular Spectacular.
Now they’re here again with their fourth offspring, bringing an intelligent mixture of their well-known electric-pop sound with a new twist of millennial cultural influences. Little Dark Age is sparkly and colourful yet also dark and gothic, rolling together sounds from the 80’s, 90’s and noughties all up into one miraculously ‘2018’ sounding creation. MGMT’s clever artistry can be mapped in many different ways throughout each brilliant song across the album.
The opening track, ‘She Works Out Too Much’, undeniably transports us straight to the world of 80’s fitness videos, to a time of legwarmers and lycra, as a chirpy female gym instructor battles with that slacker boyfriend that we all know too well. The track is a strange juxtaposition of frontman Andy VanWyngarden’s chilled vocals and the poppy influence of his female counterpart.
The album then takes its first dark turn in the shape of the title track. ‘Little Dark Age’ has a clear gothic new-wave sound, which was a refreshing first taster for this album when it was released back in October, showing the well-defined new influences that the band are now experimenting with.
The following track ‘When You Die’ further explores MGMT’s fascination with mortality on this LP, but reaffirms some of their older dreamier sounds and trippy imagery, especially when accompanied by its music video.
Their latest single, ‘Me And Michael’, has whole other complexities of its own, as, along with its video, it forms a tongue-in-cheek universal anthem that the band released in order to ‘hoax’ the internet. The music video also sees band members Andy and Ben discovering a seemingly overwhelming and powerful song online, ‘Ako at si Michael’ by the Filipino band True Faith, and then deciding to steal it and make it their own. They even got the band to make a whole other music video (which is linked in the description on youtube to MGMT’s ‘version’), and then released a statement online claiming they didn’t know “taking things from the internet was bad”.
The music video ends with True Faith sending the boys a message across the globe claiming “Michael doesn’t belong to anyone”, as the message of ‘Michael’ comes to represent universal peace and love. The song is as surreal yet brilliant as anything we’ve come to expect from MGMT.
Other album tracks such as ‘TSLAMP’ (Time Spent Looking At My Phone) and ‘Days That Got Away’ look again at our relationship with the internet and technology, almost in a lazy dreamy haze that the band seem to be saying is the modern world.
Little Dark Age creates contrasting images of other worlds that all seem weird and fictional at first but actually can be very closely linked to our own millennial culture. With ideas of death and our virtual selves, versus life and the real, soundtracked by dreamy tunes and weird sounds, the album’s title fits it perfectly, as well as summing up the time we’re living in.
The album closer ‘Hand It Over’ sounds a lot like MGMT’s older sound on albums like Congratulations (2010), as it rounds up all of the different influences over the album and gives the feeling that the dream is coming to an end.
Little Dark Age is an understatedly clever creation, looking at many elements of past and present culture, whilst also giving us more brilliantly weird and catchy music that the MGMT are so good at making.
Here's that bizarre video for 'Me and Michael':