MGMT loss of life

Loss of Life review | Newly reinvigorated TikTok superstars MGMT reject rock-star lifestyle

MGMT, the US psych-pop duo previously fled from success after their monumental debut single. 15 years later, TikTok’s thrust them back to prominence, and they respond with gorgeous yet conflicted ideas.

Do you think MGMT enjoy being a band? Ever since the duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser found fame with ‘Time to Pretend’ (a song that, ironically, highlights the hollowness of celebrity), they’ve had a tumultuous relationship with it. The pair retreated from their indie pop ways for the ensuing decade, frolicking in near-impenetrable layers of psychedelia, before re-embracing mass appeal with 2018’s Little Dark Age.

In 2024, MGMT are once again riding the tides of a major mainstream moment. The title track of Little Dark Age went supernova on TikTok last summer, thrusting VanWyngarden and Goldwasser back into a position they fled from a decade prior: being adored, trendy, mainstream figures.

Whereas the two previously ran from such a position, Loss of Life is both an embrace and rejection of the band’s post-TikTok standing. On the one hand, it’s their first album without the backing of a major label (Columbia Records have been swapped for indie spot Mom+Pop), and the artwork shows two figures enjoying a jovial pastime while obscured and in the dark.

Lyrics throughout the record reinforce that this is a band that sees those in the limelight, those ‘above’ the hard-working everyman, with contempt. Opener ‘Mother Nature’ laments the class divide as VanWyngarden croons, ‘Come take a walk with mе down billionaire’s row, trying to keep our balance over zero.’ ‘Nothing Changes’ later reiterates lyrics from ‘Time to Pretend’, implying that MGMT’s standpoint of superstardom being a soulless prospect has not changed.

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Yet, for all of the imagery and lyrics that signal a wariness of broad acclaim, MGMT have not made another wilfully anti-pop collection. Instead, ‘Loss of Life’ is gorgeous, earnest, psychedelic pop-rock. ‘Dancing in Babylon’ courts the assistance of Christine and the Queens to make a bouncy, synthy anthem, powered by two serene vocal performances. ‘Bubblegum Dog’ is a percussive alt-rock jam that’s addictive in its catharsis, and the aforementioned ‘Mother Nature’ pulls hallmarks from pop-culture titans as ubiquitous as The Beatles and Oasis.

MGMT’s up-and-down relationship with recognition plays out in real-time across these 45 minutes, making Loss of Life an album with an identity crisis seemingly at its heart. Yet, at the same time, such an observation feels secondary. What’s so much more important is that all of these songs, from ‘People in the Streets’’ acoustic glimmer to the Radiohead-esque majesty of ‘Nothing Changes’, are bloody good.

Do MGMT enjoy being a band? Based on their latest presentation of evidence, it’s impossible to say concretely. What everyone can conclude, though, is that they’re bloody excellent at being one.

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