MGMT Return to Their Cheeky Psych Roots on ‘Little Dark Age’

From the depths of their dorm room at Wesleyan University, a peculiar duo named MGMT developed a fresh and exciting new sound in the then stale sub-genre of indie music. Out came “Oracular Spectacular” in 2007, their widely applauded breakout album doused in psychedelics and middle fingers to societal norms. From there, the Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser went on to prove they were more than just a quirky one-hit-wonder machine with 2010’s “Congratulations” and their self-titled third album three years later. Over the last decade their signature sound has faded a bit, or at the very least veered off onto other distinguished paths. Back now with their long-awaited follow up “Little Dark Age,” MGMT seem to be returning to true form.

The sounds of “Electric Feel” and “Kids” aren’t replicated here so much as they are streamlined. The big bold sounds, the insanely catchy lyricism and all that came with their breakout hits are shown to be a bit more professorial this time around. Both Andrew and Ben are in their mid-30s now, so it’s certainly no surprise that their musical acumen has progressed. The best part about “Little Dark Age” is the immediate sense of efficiency it brings. The opening “She Works Out Too Much” picks up where indie production scientist Toro y Moi left off and uses upbeat drums and brightly colored synths alongside MGMT’s expected lyrical satire for a wildly productive dance song. “The only reason we never worked out was/He didn’t work out enough,” a woman’s voice says during the cheeky chorus. “TSLAMP” too brings a refreshing sense of parody in the title alone. The acronym “time spent looking at my phone” refers to the most worrisome conundrum of our time as VanWyngarden sings about hours lost, losing consciousness and the near heart attack that comes along with someone not immediately returning your call. The 80s prom song “Me and Michael” also takes to comedy as the two purposefully wrote an ambiguous love story about a delusional never-ending honeymoon.  

Pink Floyd has been a long-time stimulus for the duo and their influences are clear on a number of tracks here, particularly the acoustic story-time track “When You’re Small.” The dark, moody chords turn to uplifting orchestral strings and a wah wah guitar as VanWyngarden seems to have interpreted the plot to a Pixar movie. “When you’re small/You don’t have very far to fall,” he sings, “When you’re high/You don’t have to know why.” The whole thing is charming and incredibly well-produced. Roger Waters would be pleased. So too would he applaud the title tack where retro synths and themes of gothic rock are mixed with a Pink Floyd-esque chord structure.

It’s not only great to see MGMT back in the saddle, but back in their original saddle. You know, the bong water soaked saddle from their dorm room. Their new effort is littered with tongue-in-cheek truth bombs and a true adoration for their psych roots. They’re not quite starting over from scratch, but they are acknowledging the musical culture that they themselves helped create. On “Little Dark Age,” they’re giving fans what they’ve always wanted in a new MGMT album.  

Little Dark Age” is available Feb. 9 on Apple Music.