The Listener

Why do sweet, tender young lefties like MGMT love the decade of Reagan and Bush Snr?

17 February 2018

9:00 AM

17 February 2018

9:00 AM

Grade: B

Horrific memory, flooding back, halfway through the track ‘TSLAMP’ (Time Spent Looking at My Phone). It was the nastily burbling bass guitar that did it. I had been wondering what I was listening to and then it dawned — a Level 42 tribute band. Naffer than T’Pau. Whitey does bland, tuneless funk. And this from a duo who were once so effortlessly cool. But then the rest of the album similarly pillages that godawful decade: ‘One Thing Left To Try’, which is at least tuneful, brings to mind Tears for Fears. Elsewhere it’s Japan, the Human League and A Flock of Seagulls.


Why do you like the 1980s so much, you sweet and tender young lefties? It was eight years of Reagan and one of Bush Snr. Really you should hate them. There was a cute marginal band back then called Pop Will Eat Itself: never was a group more presciently named. But how much synth pap is there left for this generation to chew over, like cud?

MGMT made the two best singles of the previous decade: crisp and sharp and hookier than hell, ‘Kids’ and ‘Time To Pretend’ gave notice that we might have a major talent on our hands. Ten years later, this is a supposed return to form after two wilfully alienating albums. Not so sure. The verses are too often monotone, which is OK if something interesting is going on underneath — but it isn’t. Songs begin promisingly and then kind of peter out. The title track has an OK chorus and ‘When You Die’ a spurt of much-needed venom among the banalities. Go on, kids, dredge up Rick Astley and Kajagoogoo for the next one.

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