Talk about expectations. MGMT is a band who’s supposed to follow up their debut Oracular Spectacular with something that will exceed that? Good luck, sophomore slump. There’s something different in this scenario, however. The band stated from the get-go that this album was going to be something far from their debut, and boy were they right. The most popular phrase I’ve heard in all the lead up to the release of this record is “don’t expect a ‘Kids’ or ‘Time To Pretend’ type song”, and they weren’t kidding.
MGMT is really MGMT on their second release. The band has showed their ability to weird people out in the past, and they continue their zany and bizarre antics throughout this record, which makes it a pretty fun listen. The album opens with “It’s Working”, which displays lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden’s more passive vocals, different than what we’ve seen in the past. The song takes off quite nicely, drawing similarities to something you’d hear off of Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner side project Last Shadow Puppet’s cinematic-type album. “It’s Working” works quite well as a starter, but first half highlight must be “Someone’s Missing”, which brings memories of Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army?” as a slow guitar strum building into a powerful outro.
Synthesizers run wild throughout on Congratulations, which is another familiar characteristic of the duo. “Flash Delirium” feels like it should be three different songs, along with the 12 minute-plus epic “Siberian Breaks”. “Delirium” is quite a sampler of the album, however. The song was released as the single and dips into many different aspects of the album: odd flute interludes, insane echoing vocals, and those familiar keyboards we’ve heard all over MGMT in the past.
The difficult part about this album is concentration. There’s not much of a focal point, where everything really makes sense and comes together. The band stayed far from what they did on their debut, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The sequencing is interesting as well, when you have “Delirium” followed by the simple and confusing as “I Found A Whisle” and as bizarre as “Siberian Breaks”, you have to wonder what inspired them to go the route they did. The band proved that it really is crazy, but at the same time they did establish themselves as a band far, far from the sell-outs that could’ve arisen from their success. The album closes does come to a close with “Congratulations”, so maybe we can congratulate them for that.
Key Tracks: “It’s Working”, “Someone’s Missing”, “Congratulations”
Recommended if you like: Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, and Passion Pit.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!