It’s not surprising that you’ll find lovers and haters for MGMT‘s sophomore album Congratulations. MGMT made it a point to stray away from the hits of their last album Kids, Time to Pretend, and Electric Feel stating in their interview with NME, “We’ve been talking about ways to make sure people hear the album as an album in order and not just figure out what are the best three tracks, download those and not listen to the rest of it.” They definitely succeeded in that aspect, there weren’t any singles in this album. For a lot of people, those were the three songs they loved and MGMT definitely took notice of that. Unfortunately, taking away the staple styles of your fans’ favorite tracks has a dangerous risk; they might not like your music anymore. Essentially, this album is the middle finger to the fans who wanted more of Kids.
For those of you who enjoyed the second part of Ocular Spectacular, maybe specifically 4th Dimensional Transition, this is the album for you. The album isn’t terrible, actually it’s far from despite what others say, but it isn’t very spectacular either. It has an overall tone of strangeness masked in psychedelic rock and ambiance vocals with little diversity between tracks, although they did include various genres like the Beach Boys surf rock, the “Magical Mystery Tour” or psychedelic era of The Beatles and the Flaming Lips which they only touched on in Ocular Spectacular. The problem with avoiding singles is that your album will be like driving through the prairies, it’s fun for a bit but it gets boring pretty quick. I made it a point not to post a premature review of this album, having listened to it on and off over the last month since they released it on their website. At first I was simply surprised as to how different the album was and how impartial I was to it. Unfortunately the album didn’t grow on me as much as I’d hoped, it’s not one I would put on a top 10 list of 2010 which is a swift change from my 2008 list.
The album starts off with It’s Working sounding something like the Beach Boys surf rock meets shoegazing, an interesting start as it is somewhat of a the new sound coming from MGMT, if not new, it’s refined at least. I actually enjoyed this track but it felt disjointed from the rest of the album. They had fun making Song For Dan Treacy, I could tell, but I wasn’t amused. Like an inside joke I’m neither indie or old enough to understand, I’ve never even heard of Television Personalities before and my bets on you didn’t either before you heard this song. The track sounding like what The Count’s theme song actually should have been, rather than the Eastern European sounding song he always has; it’s just not for me. I was quite torn about Something’s Missing because I liked the track, the last forty seconds of it. If the whole song was that I definitely would’ve placed it as one of my favorites from the album which unfortunately isn’t the case. Flash Delirium is one of the stranger ones from this album, it actually sounded like a sing-along from Sesame Street with the strange background group vocals, I can even see the puppets in my head dancing along. Were they watching Sesame Street when they made this album? I wasn’t the first one to noticed this either.
Another mellow track I Found A Whistle, I’m not the biggest fan of these kind of tracks from any artist, so I won’t go on about this track. The 12 minute Siberian Breaks probably could have been separated into four tracks. It’s almost as bad as the ever-so-popular in the 90’s five minutes of silence on the last track before a hidden track comes up. The ballade starts and ends a couple times, I enjoyed day dreaming while I listened to it. I’m not particularly sure if that’s a good thing or not, but there is a nice buildup in the third part of this track at around eight minutes until the end of the track which might actually be the peak of the whole album. Take note, I actually really loved this! Brian Eno was Flash Delirium Pt. 2, they should have put the two tracks one after each other or would have that been way too cliché? The fully instrumental track Lady Dada’s Nightmare was another inside joke I don’t think I understood. Yes, Lady Gaga’s nightmare of soft keyboard and melodies like something from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon? I think I thought too much about that. And lastly, Congratulations was a track I actually really liked. Slow normal guitars with clear voices and a touch of original MGMT, after an album of psychedelic synth filled tracks with inaudible vocals, it’s just what I needed.
As much trash talk as I and many others did on this album, I have to say that MGMT is brave for going their own way. Despite the fact that they gave the cold shoulder to the majority of their fans, they need to explore styles to figure out their own unique one and if that means losing fans who only liked them because of Kids, then so be it. The only thing I hope MGMT does is further develop their style and not simply fall back to Kids, that would ultimately be the worst thing to do. To sum up Congratulations, it’s strange and different, but there’s nothing that will throw you off your seat like their first album. I’m still looking forward to album #3.
MGMT – Siberian Breaks
MGMT – Congratulations