Album Review: Late Night Tales - MGMT

Having filled a gap between the Klaxons' first and (disappointing) second album MGMT's debut album became somewhat of a perfect pop filler. It may not have been nu rave, strictly speaking, but it came from the same jumping off point.

Unfortunately the follow-up left many cold and it now feels a little as though MGMT have come somewhat adrift. I can't help but feel it is unclear what they represent as a band any more.

This compilation in the Late Night Tales series probably won't help. What it will do is help reinforce that, if nothing else, here is a band with some taste. In fact this is a bit of a disconcerting release because it feels so very distant from the band's own material. This is particularly evident on the obligatory exclusive track, a cover of Bauhaus' 'All We Ever Wanted Was Everything', a dusty psychedelic cyclical track that sits midway through the album and is not like anything the band have produced before.

That one track is an appropriate representation of the mix as a whole - both ageing and psychedelic. The Late Night Tales albums usually consist of their fair share of older tracks but this is even more so the case here, with tracks from The Velvet Underground, Suicide, Julian Cope and the Durutti Column amongst others. The mixture of tracks is, however, pretty spectacular. The album opens on Disco Inferno's ghostly and lost sounding 'Can't See Through It' - a track by a band I had not heard before but that perfectly kicks off this floaty, folky mix.

Suicide's 'Cheree' blends in perfectly with the looping waves of melodic distortion, giving the mix a seafaring feel. The Durutti Column's 'For Belgium Friends' is full of tripped out dreamscapes that represent a heavy contrast to the dirty blues of Charlie Feathers' 'Mound of Clay'.

And the contrasts here are worth touching on - the Late Night Tales albums have always attempted to capture those times when it is so past home time that a collective denial is the only path and whilst this captures that feeling, it feels like it comes at the cost of a cohesiveness or any consideration to sequencing. There are beautiful instrumentals that grind harshly against folk music laced with punk and there is a definite lack of progression throughout the album.

But the songs themselves, and the conclusion at home time, are beautiful. And to these ears at least, unknown enough that this probably shouldn't matter. Indeed Dave Bixby's 'Drug Song' is staggering - listening to it you can't help but wonder if he has borrowed a few ideas from Richard Hawley (he hasn't, unless time travel is possible). It is a hard man that doesn't marvel at this kind of songwriting, it is glacially slow, powerless and shot through with pain.

Similarly Spaceman 3's 'Lord Can You Hear Me?' feels like an incredibly fitting close, with massive epic vocals that struggle to be heard over the much more pedestrian guitar work and distortion. It sounds like neurosis and melancholy brought on by a come down that is uncompromisingly brought into stark relief by the realities of morning daylight. And then the album squeezes in one last track, 'Morning Splendor' by Pauline Anna Strom, a touching instrumental of heavy eyelids and the final surrender to sleep.

Messy and ramshackle it is, but for nights lead astray you couldn't find a much more fitting or touching album.

BP x

Late Night Tales selected by MGMT is out now, available from on CD and MP3 [affiliate links].