In this day of the internet and the public’s insatiable appetite for that which is not yet universally available, I was recently able to preview MGMT’s second full length album Congratulations via their website. The album is scheduled for a physical release on April 13th, 2010, and I am lucky to get a couple of weeks head start listening the Hell out of this thing, thanks in part because the whole record leaked and they were cool enough to just make it available to fans early.
For those uninitiated, MGMT are originally a Brooklyn based duo whose music is an interesting exercise dabbling in electro-pop-indie-psychadelic tendencies. Their 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular blew up, which took them to opening up for acts like Radiohead and Paul McCartney. They even wrestled with the French Government over the unlawful use of a song off of the album. So yeah, pretty popular.
Three years later, Congratulations is prepared to fall into the laps of very anticipatory hands next month, and MGMT isn’t letting any of the hype alter them in the least. There are even discussions of not releasing any singles from this album, the band instead wanting listeners to experience the album start to finish as intended rather than selecting a couple of radio-played tunes. Definitely a bold move, and one that should be commended in this the age of the almighty dollar (or Euro, or Canadian Dollar).
The album kicks off with “It’s Working”, a seemingly regretful ode to popping some Ecstasy. The song really sets the tone for the album as a whole, as there aren’t any of the obvious MGMT Oracular Spectacular poppy hooks. No, this is pure psychadelia at work, folks. The second song, “Song for Dan Treacy,” harkens back to a 60’s music personality, and does embody that time period in a capsule very well. The ambience created is magnificent, and it’s obvious to hear the influences at play. “Someone’s Missing” is a great slight of hand play, as it starts out softly and then bursts into a very funky song for the short back end. “Flash Delirium” is an odd track, one that bounces around but still has a discernible MGMT fingerprint on it, while also feeling very Sgt. Pepper era Beatles. “I Found A Whistle” sounds like a Flaming Lips song, and I think if you snuck it onto their album last year, Embryonic, you almost wouldn’t be able to pick it out as not fitting in.
“Siberian Breaks” is an absolute beast of a song, one that stretches a little over 12 minutes in length. Yes, that isn’t a typo, TWELVE minutes. It successfully blends together what seem to be multiple songs and trains of thought, all in a more synth driven Simon and Garfunkel or Seales and Crofts sound. This is the most optimistic MGMT has ever sounded. They are absolutely evolving right on our ear drums. Rather than pumping out something super mainstream right after they make a name for themselves, the decide to instead go the opposite direction. And that is the feel of the album overall. It seems rather than embracing Pop Music immortality they would rather tip to the other side of the scale and make something that, while still accessible, isn’t the normal direction most bands take. They want out of the limelight. The ending of the song is perhaps the most endearing — a spacey, raw, techno based bubbling beat that leads you out of such an experience with a distorted emotion.
“Brian Eno” is another homage track, and with its echoing vocals and up tempo pace, really weaves and races to its conclusion. It’s almost dizzying at moments after “Siberian Breaks” how fast this song bounces around and kicks you in the ass. “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” starts with a delicate string sound and molds into a howling pit of lyric-less emotion. The album ends with the title track “Congratulations”, an ode to MGMT’s desire to be congratulated and deemed as a credible band capable of more than the status quo.
MGMT seems to have the right idea if they indeed do not release any singles from this album. There really aren’t any songs on this album that would benefit from that. The album is indeed best digested whole, and as you trek through and chew on each piece as they are delivered, the entire meal feels a little more filling. The album has major influeces from the 60s, and they breathe a unique quality into the album as a whole. The music this band is homaging was created before they were even alive, and yet here they are crafting it so masterfully themselves almost fifty years later in 2010. If music is cyclical, MGMT are on the right side of the turn, because Congratulations is indeed an album worth being congratulated for.
Score: 7.5/10 (Very Good)