MGMT, Parquet Courts, and the End of the World

At the start of the 2010s, indie was nonetheless struggling to get away from bed. The flip of the last decade noticed the style resurrect the slacker stereotypes that alternately outlined and plagued the bedhead indie rockers of the 1980s and ’90s — again when the time period extra utilized to defining an ethos than a advertising and marketing plan. This time round, the instruments had been barely completely different; alongside wooly, lazy-river guitar bands like Real Estate and Woods, home-recording expertise and the rising interconnectedness of the web birthed chillwave, a nostalgia-laden subgenre of indie that largely centered on electronic-pop textures and blurry tones ripped straight from numerous eras of bodily degraded media. Some of indie’s most seen forefathers (the desired gender being operative) gained widespread recognition by hitting the highway and gigging usually; chillwave’s practitioners, however, may attain a large viewers with out ever leaving their rooms.

As indie continued its industry-led transformation from a manner of being to a manner of promoting, the relaxed-fit days of the early 2010s continued to have ripple results amid the emergence of bolder, punkier, and extra progressive acts. Vancouver haze-spinner Mac DeMarco turned one of many decade’s most acquainted faces with a beneficiant, come-as-you-are fashion of guitar rock as impossibly charming because the gap-toothed grin throughout his face, whereas bridge-gap enfants terribles Lana Del Rey and Father John Misty emerged with hallucinogen-gobbling backstories and stoner-friendly wistfulness that belied grander ambitions. In specific, these latter two artists unleashed one thing representing their very own respective political awakenings final 12 months with Lust for Life and Pure Comedy; the primary a dread-soaked evocation of recent life in political wartime, the second representing primarily a Chapo Trap House listener’s model of the notorious “Time for some recreation principle” Twitter thread.

History typically repeats itself, and so 2018 noticed two releases from beforehand slacker-pigeonholed acts consumed with confronting and questioning the common horrors of on a regular basis society; this time, nevertheless, from acts who don’t share as many non secular kinships as Lana and Misty. Psych-pop duo MGMT snuck into the opening months of 2018 with Little Dark Age, their most direct and approachable assertion since 2008’s blockbuster debut Oracular Spectacular and an album zeroing in on the apocalypse — what it’d seem like, and the way we should always react to the oncoming menace. Then there have been NYC’s wisecracking punks Parquet Courts, whose Wide Awake! took on an explicitly political form greater than any of their earlier work, whereas additionally representing a melodic breakthrough for a band that had already established itself as reliably producing Velvet Underground– and Wire-indebted guitar punk.

Of the 2 data, it’s onerous to resolve which topical pivot proved extra shocking; parts of worldly concern lurked beneath each bands’ respective frameworks, however had been doubtlessly dropped at the forefront following just about all the pieces that’s occurred in American life over the previous a number of years. An air of useless seriousness generally lurked beneath Parquet Courts’ earlier materials, specifically; “Dust,” from the band’s 2015 album Human Performance, handled the pesky mites as an on a regular basis epidemic threatening to choke the air out of our lungs. But vocalists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown have additionally showcased an strategy as knowingly snarky as it’s positively baked, courting again to their time in Denton, Texas, weirdo-pop outfit Fergus & Geronimo. To wit: One of the standouts on Parquet Courts’ breakout 2012 launch Light Up Gold was titled “Stoned and Starving,” which was about precisely what it seems like.

That sense of postcollegiate convility continues to be greater than current on Wide Awake!, an album that Savage has mentioned represents an try and make a punk report that could possibly be performed at events. With curious collaborator Danger Mouse on the helm as producer, Parquet Courts greater than efficiently obtain that imaginative and prescient; Wide Awake!’s sound is loud and vibrant, each sliver of sneering angle leavened by a hip-shaking funkiness all the way down to the DFA-esque title monitor. But the lyrics are sometimes searing and direct in the case of addressing topical issues and the way they have an effect on what’s occurring inside their heads; the band’s trademark humorousness has all however disappeared, from their gangland chanting “Violence is every day life!” on “Violence” to the bar-band nearer “Tenderness,” through which Savage admits, “I can’t rely what number of instances I’ve been outdone by nihilism.”

Gentrification, groupthink, and social consciousness take up ample lyrical house; on “Death Will Bring Change,” Savage is joined by an innocent-sounding choir as he states, “Before the grief / I felt peace in my egocentric methods / My yesterdays had been erased,” earlier than touchdown on the ominous titular mantra. Then there’s “Before the Water Gets Too High,” which represents Parquet Courts’ bong-loaded previous colliding with its freaked-out current, a meditation on local weather change drenched in dub reggae’s eerie, placid echo. “Glass barely bends earlier than it cracks,” Savage states with simply the correct amount of saucer-eyed disaffection, the kind of so-obvious-it-stings statement that’ll by no means cease feeling like a contemporary hell within the face of our planet’s imminent doom.

And doom is essentially the secret on MGMT’s Little Dark Age, too — an album much less concerning the trivialities that occupies our minds and extra concerning the wide-scale decay we’re consistently staring down. Wide Awake! primarily represents Parquet Courts subverting their listeners’ expectations whereas turning into extra accessible, however MGMT have spent most of this decade doing extra of the previous and fewer of the latter; since Oracular, their output has been splendidly bizarre and troublesome, from the zonked-out psych of 2010’s Congratulations to the Sparks-esque eccentricities of 2013’s self-titled effort.

With reputed psych-pop producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips) on the helm for each data, MGMT spent a lot of the 2010s’ first half pushing again on the portrayal of the duo as, to cite lead singer Andrew VanWynGarden in my 2013 profile of the band, “druggy, retarded, partying hipsters.” For Little Dark Age, MGMT’s guard-changing Danger Mouse determine was former Chairlift member Patrick Wimberly, whose equal affinity for big-budget sheen and off-putting intricacies is the proper ingredient to finish VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser’s psychedelic brew. There are a few of MGMT’s most open-hearted songs to this point, from the radiant “James” to the John Hughes–isms of “Me and Michael”; however the place the clouds half to disclose the duo’s melodic items, new and threatening shapes take their place.

“So many individuals within the information have been saying, ‘Objectively, the world is definitely ending now,’ VanWyngarden advised me earlier this 12 months whereas discussing Little Dark Age’s doomy themes. “It’s a fairly harrowing time to stay in, however what do you do? Do you hand over? Or do you attempt to convey out the very best in humanity with no matter time we now have left?” That sense of kitchen-sink optimism within the face of sure obliteration shines by on Little Dark Age’s most hanging moments. “I don’t wanna die / Wishing I’d carried out one thing,” VanWyngarden exclaims in an higher register throughout the glammy motorik of “One Thing Left to Try,” later prescribing, “You have to attract the road / And bear in mind there’s greater than you see in your sight.” The gothy title monitor evokes gun-toting policemen and strange-sounding stereos earlier than subtly issuing a name to arms: “Come discover us heading for the bridge / Bring a stone.”

The album’s most ideologically ferocious track is, mockingly, its most placid: the soft-rock glow of closing monitor “Hand It Over,” which finds VanWyngarden soothingly seething about “the offers we made to shake issues up / And the rights that they abuse.” “They performed their hand / Now there’s one factor left to do,” he states in a honeyed voice, alluding to the more and more accepted notion that nothing in need of whole political upheaval will have the ability to pull us out of the societal muck. His imaginative and prescient seemingly represents, as Savage places it on Wide Awake!’s title monitor, “Eyes so open that my imaginative and prescient is as sharp as a blade” — and it appears completely doable that earlier than this decade involves its wretched finish, we’ll be seeing extra laid-back indie figures wiping the crust from their eyes, looking for newfound readability as an alternative of perpetually abusing the snooze button.