What Went Wrong with MGMT's New Single, "Alien Days"?
It wasn't an easy decision to give MGMT the honor of having the worst new song of the week. We love this band. We have always loved this band. The reason the psych-pop duo is here is because new song, "Alien Days" just makes no sense to us. It's disappointing. It's like waking up on Christmas morning, expecting a gleaming new shiny bicycle to be in love with for the next year, and, instead, getting a floor puzzle you're going to be done with within a week. "Alien Days" is MGMT's worst single to date, and we just cannot figure out how the band got here.
The group's first album, Oracular Spectacular, set standards incredibly high for future work, but lower-key second record, Congratulations, seemed like a comfortable organic development. It proved that we didn't need the catchy poptastic hits MGMT had previously spoiled us with to be kept happy with the band's output. The problem with "Alien Days" is that MGMT sounds lost. Lost, and -- worst of all -- out of fresh ideas.
Initially, "Alien Days" is interesting: a dreamy backtrack -- a dark, childlike fairy tale. When you first hear it, you just cannot wait to see where they're going to go with it. Post-intro, the track hedges into Flaming Lips territory, with a ton of 1960s psychedelia thrown in. Not being on acid (or any other hallucinogen) is a hindrance for us, but there's plenty of promise on show still.
The problem starts three minutes in, when you finally realize that the song isn't actually going anywhere and is instead going to wallow in Revolver-era Beatles nostalgia forever. The thing that we're lacking here is MGMT's personality. And when a band has previously presented such a huge, distinctive persona, it's a real problem when that same entity sounds both tired and derivative.
"Alien Days" is cute for minute, but quickly becomes boring and obvious. It's a song that you desperately want to have more personality, because you know who's responsible for it. And when it finally fades out (because it can't think of a more interesting ending?), it feels a lot like sex without an orgasm: "Is that seriously it? How are you tired already?"
"Alien Days" doesn't really sound like MGMT. It doesn't have any of the guts or glory or panache we have come to expect from the band. It doesn't have purpose. It doesn't have, well, anything distinctive to latch onto. It's so retro, it ceases to really mean anything in the here and now. In short, it is the sound of MGMT running out of ideas and borrowing from other people.
We know MGMT is capable of things much greater than this. "Alien Days" would do just fine as a B-side, but if this is the best offering from the self-titled new album, then fans of the band are in trouble.