Review: MGMT's 'Little Dark Age' is off-kilter, challenging

This cover image released by Columbia Records shows "Little Dark Age," a release by MGMT. (Columbia Records via AP)

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MGMT, "Little Dark Age" (Columbia Records)

If MGMT's first album in four years gets really trippy, there's a good reason. One song was apparently created during a real acid trip.

If that's what it takes to get the creative juices flowing for bandmates Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, we're fine with it. MGMT have once more delivered an off-kilter, challenging and very addictive album with "Little Dark Age."

The 10-track collection veers from cheeky ("She Works Out Too Much") to pitch-black ("When You Die"). There a general sense of unease in the lyrics, both socially and technologically, and the cover seems to riff off Edvard Munch's unnerving "The Scream."

MGMT have some producing help this time from Chairlift's Patrick Wimberly and their longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann, whose work with the psychedelic Flaming Lips really rubs off here, particularly in the mind-melting "When You're Small," with the lyric "when you're small, you can curl into a ball."

The title track is the most likely to get mainstream traction, with its heavy synth waves that have a Kraftwerk feel and a video in which VanWyngarden does his best imitation of Robert Smith from The Cure. "I grieve in stereo," he sings.

Other songs include "James," a blissed-out tune with French horn and plink-plink piano, "One Thing Left to Try," an '80s throwback with tons of pop synth, and "Days That Got Away," which sounds like stumbling into a nightclub run by robots under the influence of MDMA.

Perfect for an album in 2018, VanWyngarden explores tech addiction. "I'm constantly swiping and tapping/ it's never relaxing," he sings in the opening song. Another standout track is "TSLAMP," which stands for Time Spent Looking at My Phone: "I'm wondering where the hours went," he admits.

Things take a more nasty turn with "When You Die," a bitter little ditty in which VanWyngarden curses, threatens to shoot himself and promises "we'll all be laughing with you when you die."

The album ends on a happier note with "Hand It Over," which has a Beach Boys feel. By that time, you'll likely be exhausted, thrilled and spent — like encountering a contact high.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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