MGMT–4th Dimensional Transition

MGMT’s tale is not unique.  After having an early hit, they were plagued with expectation and misconceptions.  Many lamented that the band was stubbornly refusing to follow up its radio-friendly debut with more bright, psych-tinged pop.  While it isn’t entirely wrong that they’ve resisted making more digestible pieces (even initially refusing to release official singles for sophomore effort Congratulations), it’s also unfair to see that as a complete departure from their major label debut.  Even on Oracular Spectacular, the band was creating dense, dark tunes that resist easy listening.  4th Dimensional Transition is a fluttering, panicked mess of momentum.  It’s the type of thing they’d double down on in later albums.  There’s a clear sadness present, as well as a lack of control.  The frantic music reflects the act of losing grasp, while the measured, mournful vocals are a denial of coming unglued.  There’s little for the listener to hold on to, with the chorusless composition in a constant state of transformation.  The song is thick and unruly, but ultimately beautiful.  Just when it feels like it might become overwhelming, there is a break in the clouds.  It ends with clarity, on what can only be called a meditative note. A seeming coming to terms with instability, it’s a metaphor for the band’s trajectory and theme they’d revisit in later works.  It’s cleat MGMT showed impressive promise on their major label debut, they just hid it where no one was looking.

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