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.

-- @Raemondjjjj


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"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."

i wrote a pretty good argument as to why this is a moronic statement but then realized i could more concisely sum it up with their song Brian Eno, written about someone who has given them great influence and from whom they have borrowed many ideas.

seriously, every song by MGMT is the sound of them "borrowing from other people." that is why their songs are good; they are using all the right ingredients. this is how music works.

i don't mind you talking shit about this band because in three days i'm seeing them live and if less people are at the show because you posted this then that's cool with me (but there won't be less people---it's been sold out for months)


"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. Since everybody else seems to, we figured we probably should say we love them. Their sophomore album was a major disappointment so we were hoping for another Time to Pretend single."

nothing went wrong with the new single. it's doing exactly what they meant it to. just because you don't like it doesn't mean they made a mistake.

i think that it WAS an easy decision to say their song was the worst of the week if you only gave yourself a week to decide what you think about it.


ORACULAR SPECTACULAR was not what MGMT sounds like. that album is what the label wanted to present them as initially, but also was a higher-end twist on their management demos. so oracular was a debut, but also a transitional record. CONGRATULATIONS is what MGMT sounds like, and ALIEN DAYS is them fully finding their vision. if you do not like congratulations or the new single then you are listening to the wrong band. sorry.

anybody who thinks the new single isn't MGMT at their best yet, just take a look at the chord progression. john lennon is a baby drawing scribbles compared these catchy key changes. seriously, this song is really complicated. i don't know how someone could pull off these chords in a pop setting so flawlessly. it DOES go somewhere, you just haven't let it take you there.

i hated oracular when they first debuted but i cannot get ENOUGH of alien days! you don't need wings to hover forty-ton stones for a mile...


I found their Congratulations album a bit impenetrable, Alien Days seems like like a nice bridge between something new and their first, more accessible record. I like. It's something I'll go back and listen to. But then, I'm old & I love Revolver-era Beatles. 


and hey— there's nothing wrong with a good pop song. but this isn't really a pop song. if you're looking for that, take a listen to 'oracular spectacular'.


i'm sorry, i'm as big of a critic as anyone and i love it. it almost has a creepy futuristic vibe, especially near the end. you expect the chorus to be repeated again (it doesn't), you expect the song to have some big huge synth line (it doesn't), but what it does have is a slow descent from harmony into chaos... it's almost an eerie feeling of displacement which fits the title "alien days". these are some strange times we live in and MGMT has managed to capture a little bit of that.

and i'm no MGMT fanboy. i think the chorus here is a bit derivative, which is why i'm pleased it doesn't rear its head more than a couple of times. on congratulations, i thought 'it's working', 'flash delirium', and 'siberian breaks' were truly works of genius, but the rest of the album was a flop for me— there were definitely some clever and funny lyrics especially on 'brian eno', but after the first few listens it really tires.

i'm usually the poo-poo guy, so i'm not used to saying this. listen to it a couple more times. 

yeradouche like.author.displayName 1 Like

Oh no! A psychedelic band being experimental and not trying to appeal to your pop-formula-fried brain. Learn to open your third eye and you'll perhaps understand why we need more bands willing to break free from the typical pop-rock-mould. I'm glad that the new single disappointed you, that's what you get for being a critic, hopefully alienation of 'fans' like you will make their tour for this album less overrun with brain-dead teeny boppers.

cuylerdearruda like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Give me a break. MGMT said they're not trying to make music that everyone understands the first time they hear it. I was skeptical and confused by Alien Days the first few times that I listened, but now I can't stop listening to it. To me, it's a sign that MGMT continues to mature musically, not aiming to appeal to the masses. This music isn't for everyone; it takes an effort to appreciate. I encourage everyone to listen to Alien Days many times, because you will learn to love it, and you'll anticipate MGMT's forthcoming album even more. Or maybe you won't. I know at least I'm in the former camp. 


well i mean, i didn't really agree with their choice of flash delirium as a single. i thought the title track was more accessible and appropriate as a single release. so i don't know if this is "the best offering" from the upcoming album. i'm reserving judgement till it drops and i have some time to listen to it, because if the band has shown anything, it's that context is everything.

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