MGMT’s ‘Loss Of Life’ is Deathly Good

REVIEW: MGMT’s return to the stage “Loss of Life” deftly tackles aging, the perils of change and the broader hardships of life.

What more does a 22-year-old band possibly have to say? A lot, actually.

MGMT’s album “Loss Of Life,” released Feb. 23, deals with growing older, struggling with change and accepting the hardships of life. Coming six years after their last album “Little Dark Age,” the band ventured into new thematic territory while maintaining their signature electronic style.

Barely two minutes long, “Loss Of Life (part 2)” introduces the album with a crunchy instrumental set to a recording of an untitled ancient Welsh poem.

Despite its groovy guitar and pounding piano, second track “Mother Nature” paints a portrait of peace. Since “Mother Nature” was the band’s first single since 2020, the theme of facing reality fittingly addresses their return to the music scene.

“You know it’s turbulent from the start / And I understand it’s not your nature,” lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden sings in the chorus.

“Dancing In Babylon” features French singer-songwriter Héloise Letissier, who releases music under the name Christine and the Queens. The song marks the first-ever feature on an MGMT album, which is notable for a band formed in 2002. The ‘80s-inspired, echoey guitar conjures up comparisons to New Order and The Cure, but the song is still wholly MGMT.

“People In The Streets” is a meditation on living in the moment. The slow, winding verses embrace the constancy of change — from the revolution of the sun to people walking — ending with a chanting chorus of childlike voices.

The best way to get rid of an earworm is to replace it with another. The catchy chorus of “Bubblegum Dog” does the trick. The progressing melody adds a sense of dread like a slowly worsening nightmare.

“And I hate this bubblegum world / But hate is a very strong word,” VanWyngarden sings.

“Nothing To Declare” is slower and less energetic than the band’s signature heart-thumping jams — see “Kids” and “Electric Feel” — but recalls the restrained tone of their more recent work in “Little Dark Age.”

Shifting tonally, the pessimistic “Nothing Changes” invokes the Greek myth of Sisyphus to tell a tale of unmet expectations. The pivotal line “it was time to stop pretending” references MGMT’s breakout hit “Time To Pretend.”

Released almost 17 years ago, “Time to Pretend” ironically embraced the “live fast, die young” mentality held by many millennials at the time. With lines about snorting cocaine, getting with models and choking on vomit, the song was a bleak reflection on fame but embraced it nonetheless.

Yet, the era of no regrets is rendered obsolete in “Nothing Changes,” which manifests through bitter lyrics.

“This is what the gods must have been talking about / When they told me, ‘Nothing changes,’” VanWyngarden sings.

Softly-strummed guitar makes “Phradie’s Song” a modern lullaby. The words may be sweet, but the crackly instrumentals and VanWyngarden’s vocals toe the line between cute and creepy. The song fades out with the eerie twinkling of wind chimes, adding a sinister layer to an otherwise unassuming track.

“I Wish I Was Joking” lays the message on thick — repeating its title 26 times, in case it wasn’t heard the first. Pivorting further from the party-hard mindset in past works, VanWyngarden sings of staying home and differentiating jobs from dreams.

The album suffers from some lyrical clichés, like references to “two ships in the night” in “Dancing In Babylon” — but it’s more than made up for with obscure but entertaining lines about juvenile quetzal birds in “Bubblegum Dog” and “Disney on Ice” in “I Wish I Was Joking.”

“Loss Of Life” bookends the album with swirling instrumentals and medieval sounding trills, recalling the old Welsh poem from the first track.

“When the world is born and life is ending / Then you learn to love your loss of life,” VanWyngarden sings near the end.

MGMT still has a lot to say — even if the lyrics seem odd at first. The hipstery elements of past hits are present in “Loss Of Life,” but in the end, the album marks progress for the band’s sound, leaving the world all the better for it.
“Loss of Life” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Mom + Pop Music

Mao Reynolds

Mao Reynolds