It’s been three long years without MGMT brightening up our festivals and another year on top of that since they last put out a record. They’ve teased us with their return, tweeting what seemed like an excellent Christmas present in 2015 and promising they’d be back in 2016. That year passed with little evidence of that being true, but now MGMT are back and their new songs should get you very excited.
Tonight (July 28), they add to the handful of festival performances they’ve already completed in 2017 with a set at New York’s Panorama festival. Stand in the right place and you can see the Manhattan skyline looking majestic behind the main stage on which the band are playing. It’s one of the greatest sights on earth, but you’ll barely notice it once MGMT get going.
Throughout the set they drop classics like ‘Time To Pretend’, which has late-comers dashing across the field as its opening melody bubbles across the field, and ‘Kids’, which they expand into a krautish epic. In the middle, as his bandmates go on a sonic exploration, frontman Andrew VanWyngarden sits down at the edge of the stage and repeats into the microphone “I’m in the mood to get down, I’m in the mood to dance.”
Predictably, those songs and a faithful rendition of ‘Electric Eel’ get the biggest cheers of the set, but they could soon have competition when the band’s new album ‘Little Dark Age‘ gets released. Tonight, they play three songs from it, as they have done elsewhere this summer. MGMT have always married an adventurous experimentalism with pop sensibilities, and these tracks are no different.
First, the upcoming record’s title track is a sci-fi-tinged treat, VanWyngarden singing over Ben Goldwasser’s intergalactic synth ripples like an emotionless robot. His voice sounds cold and metallic, but its completely compelling. Later, ‘When You Die’ shows there’s still plenty of feeling in the band. “I wanna eat your heart out,” the frontman sings at one point, while the chorus has him telling someone to “go fuck yourself/Don’t call me nice, again”. Musically, the song contrasts hugely with those barbed lines – it’s a shuffling, glimmering piece that has strains of George Harrison‘s solo work to it.
They save the best ’til last, in terms of new cuts. ‘Me And Michael’ immediately sounds massive and there’s plenty of fists punching the air when it drops. It’s a gleaming, pastel-hued track that sounds like Chromatics put through a soft-rock filter – elegant and atmospheric, but with a bit of bite too.
“We’re MGMT, we’re a band playing some songs… music festivals,” says VanWyngarden by way of stunted introduction mid-way through the set. Thank god they are and thank god they’re back. Based on these tunes, ‘Little Dark Age’ can’t come soon enough.