After the success of MGMT‘s 2008 debut Oracle Spectacular, audiences were waiting with baited breath to see what these amazingly talented guys from Brooklyn would do next. Two years later, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden are gearing up to release their much-anticipated follow-up on April 13 titled Congratulations.
The album opens with one of only three up-tempo songs – “It’s Working.” The song is guitar-driven, very melodic and has this strange throwback to ’50s pop tunes. It’s almost unrecognizable for MGMT and definitely sets the tone for what’s to come in the rest of the album. Congratulations, as a whole, sort of takes a left turn to where Oracle Spectacular left off. There is still a hint of a resemblance to the MGMT we saw two years ago, but all and all quite different. “It’s Working” features the gradual buildup and crescendo that has become virtually synonymous to MGMT songs, but, for me, is slightly lackluster as an opening number.
Next up, “Song For Dan Treacy” continues the throwback with classic Lennon-McCartney chord progressions. What makes this song a smidgen more exciting than the first is the overlay of “mad scientist” sounds (honestly, no other way to really describe it!) Must say, the overall production of this record and the entire album was really solid and tight. The accompaniment is insanely clean no matter how intricate it gets, and the balance with extra vocals is always impeccable.
“Someone’s Missing” is the first slower, mellow track on the album. Also the shortest tack on the album at 2:30 minutes, “Someone’s Missing” starts out really disjointed and haunting. The song is performed in soft, steady falsetto, building up to a now-predictable crescendo by the last chorus.
The fourth song on the album, “Flash Delirium,” is perhaps the closest resemblance fans of Oracle Spectacular will get to the first album. I’m personally a big fan of the twist and turns MGMT provided in their first album, so I really like the unpredictable journey the duo takes in this song. I’ll make a prediction now that, although the band has stated that they won’t be releasing individual songs as singles off of Congratulations, “Flash Delirium” will be the most beloved and remembered song off the album.
The ’90s dream pop-sounding “I Found a Whistle” follows. This song has a folky feel, if you can imagine a “folk” song that is heavy on synths.
The epic song to end all epic songs, “Siberian Breaks,” comes up next. Seriously, I kept having to check my iPod to make sure it was still playing the exact same song after 12 minutes! Got to say, I really liked it though, maybe because “Siberian Breaks” reminds me a lot of Radiohead‘s “Paranoid Android.” The song starts with this dreamy Virgin Suicides-esque melody, a la Chicago or the Bee Gees. Well into the third minute of this masterpiece, the listener is introduced to a more up-tempo folk sequence before we enter what I like to call the “David Bowie vs. Scarface” section. Why, you ask? Well, it sounds a lot like something Mr. Ziggy Stardust would record himself crossed with that off-beat drumming that occurs in the final scene of Scarface after everyone’s dead. Six minutes in, and this climax is concluded with a lighter, pipe-filled interlude of the same melody. The next few minutes are filled with very delicate and beautiful variations on the opening melody. Just when you think the song is over, MGMT prepares you for the finale of the song – soaring, digitalized arpeggios!
The next song, “Brian Eno,’ is almost a downer in comparison of what preceded it. The song, dedicated to the famous English musician, composer and producer, has a fast-paced tin can, garage band sound. Actually “Brian Eno” sounds a lot like the opening two numbers on the album.
“Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” an instrumental piece, sort of calms the listener down after everything that they’ve listened to before the album’s finale. The song is mainly based on keyboard with added strings later in the piece for a full orchestral feel.
The final number on the album, “Congratulations,” is a mid-tempo psychedelic rock ballad. Perhaps the most commercial sounding song on the album, “Congratulations” is just a well-written song that is fitting for the end to the band’s sophomore effort.
Overall, Congratulations would be a solid album for any band. I think that Oracle Spectacular was just so beloved that fans may be let down by a follow-up either way. The most shining moments on the album are definitely “Flash Delirium” and “Siberian Breaks,” and for these two songs alone, I’d say that Congratulations is worth the listen. However, I think that we still may need to wait for the band’s next album before we can really understand what MGMT is all about.
Buy MGMT Congratulations on Amazon.com.