The conversation/controversy/backlash around MGMT's self-titled third album, out September 17, is intense: SPIN stamped the "confusing" LP as "Worst New Music," while popular music critics are calling it "borderline unlistenable" on Twitter. Even the band themselves preemptively said they're "not trying to make music that everyone understands the first time they hear it..." Truth be told: MGMT is a challenging listen, full of psych-pop ambience and meandering structures, but critics may be guilty of MGMT's warning by not sitting with and soaking up the full LP—there is salvation in the details.
Frontman Andrew VanWyngarden, keyboardist Ben Goldwasser and their band performed two of the best album tracks, "Plenty of Girls in the Sea" and "Alien Days," Wednesday night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. For the former, the six-piece wore scuba gear, complete with goggles, snorkels and wetsuits. It's a fun, sometimes funny, acoustic guitar-driven ditty with a simple, almost child-like vocal harmonies and a black-hole, bad-trip instrumental. For "Alien Days," MGMT curled back the wet suits as VanWyngarden inhaled helium to sing its high-pitched intro over mars-landing atmospherics. It's a leisurely jam with strumming electric guitar, synth wizardry and a into-the-deep jam to close it out.
The takeaway: Don't believe all the negative press. Polarized opinions are better for web traffic than the more middling reviews MGMT actually deserves. Just do yourself a favor: Listen more than once.