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MGMT - Loss of Life (Album Review)

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 Written by Chris Connor

Photo: Jonah Freeman

Since invading indie-rock with their hugely successful debut ‘Oracular Spectacular’ in 2007, MGMT have hummed along in the background, leaning heavily into electronic music and releasing records that led to a heady fusion of several styles. Returning with their fifth album ‘Loss of Life’, their first in six years, Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser prove that they still aren’t comfortable playing it safe.

Mother Nature offers a melodic start that foregrounds VanWyngarden’s vocals. From a relatively light opening, it expands into a more chaotic middle, blending genre flourishes but never feeling overwhelming. Built around bassy synths and a rolling piano line, the ensuing Dancing in Babylon is a collaboration with Christine & The Queens that fits both artists neatly, their vocals working well alongside each other. 

Recalling a psych-dosed 1980s ballad, it is a departure in sound but a fun shift in priorities. Indeed, part of the thrill of this record is its willingness to go off-script.

People In The Streets continues the trend of slow, subdued buildups, gradually moulding its disparate elements — double bass, acoustic guitars, finger-snaps, spacey synths — into something truly expansive. 

It is one of the standout moments on ‘Loss of Life’ and shows the growth and maturity now harnessed by the band. Bubblegum Dog continues in this vein, recalling the indie of the early ‘00s, especially The White Stripes in the destructive nature of the sound and the tone of VanWyngarden’s vocals. For fans more familiar with MGMT’s early work, this helps to re-centre them as a rock band. 

Nothing Changes is a true epic, coming in at six-and-a-half minutes, but it never outstays its welcome, again incorporating an array of textures, and Phradie’s Song maintains the experimental bent, with elements of folk and baroque pop amid some electronic tinges. 

‘Loss of Life’ is certainly among MGMT’s most ambitious projects and is all the better for it. It is remarkable to think this is the same group who once chiefly made indie disco anthems but here they display creative depth and musicality to draw on a number of sonic preoccupations and blend them seamlessly. It was certainly worth the wait.


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