Review Summary: With their sophomore album "Congratulations," MGMT improves greatly compared to their debut album but they still have a lot more room to grow.
In 2008 the Brooklyn natives, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT reached mainstream with their debut album Oracular Spectacular
(They actually had a previous album out in 2005 under the name The Management, but all technicalities aside this is the debut for the band). The success came particularly from the trippy, Animal Collective-like single “Time To Pretend” and the fun danceable tune of “Kids,” both of which had indie hipsters flocking back to the world of mainstream music to divulge into the delightful blend of indie and electronics that MGMT creates. Regardless of the mixed fan base and two hit singles, Oracular Spectacular
slowly faded from the charts and many just brushed Goldwasser and VanWyngarden off believing that their time had came and went. Since then MGMT has collaborated with the likes of Kid Cudi and The Flaming Lips to provide a hint of MGMT to their music as well. Also to prove that the band is still relevant, the two guys constantly updated their fans on the workings of their sophomore album to be titled Congratulations
, featuring the quirky little cover art of a cat surf boarding on a cat-shaped wave.
In March of 2010 Congratulations
leaked on the internet and the hipsters had their day of reckoning, but being the fan-loving band that they are MGMT posted the entire album for free streaming on their website stating, “We wanted to offer it as a free download but that didn't make sense to anyone but us." This gave all their fans a chance to listen to the album almost an entire month before the scheduled April 13th release date. In an interview held a little before the leak of the album, MGMT stated that they would prefer not to release any singles from the album believing that it is a whole body of work and that they did not want people to select certain songs that they want to hear. This is an obvious attempt to stray away from the mainstream success like that of the previous album and to prove to themselves that their not a flop of a band.
The albums first track “It’s Working” puts the slightly altered sound of this new album in perspective. This opening track is a quick sliding jam of guitar and synthesizer combination making a Dick Dale-like surf riff over the oddly high-pitched vocals. This is an obvious improvement from the mockingly drug inspired songs of the previous album that used too much synthesizer and vocal alterations. As a whole, this sophomore album is much more cleanly cut and easier to digest, although not danceable like the previous this sound change is for the better in the end. The most obviously cleaner cut song of this new catalogue is “Brian Eno,” which is primarily a vocal and drum arrangement with a few guitar strums. The vocals are pretty fast and mashed up together but regardless works very well when the song makes its dramatic slowdowns and speed ups that are used throughout.
Like the band said themselves, Congratulations
is more of a single body rather than a collection of songs, and in some ways this can definitely hurt the band. The two tracks “Flash Delirium” and “I Found a Whistle” for example, two good tracks, but also two very similar sounding tracks. Since “Flash Delirium” leads into “I Found a Whistle,” on the initial listen they almost sound like the same song. This would not be a problem except for that “Delirium” is musically superior, and when the songs are paired together like they are on the album, boredom sets in and unfortunately this can happen a lot on the album.
Regardless the album is still good, and each track has its own little piece that makes it special or at least makes it improved over everything else the band has released. The closing track “Congratulations” is one of the most evolved of all MGMT songs because of its extreme simplicity. It does not try to be loud or atmospheric it is just acoustic guitar and vocals with a light little keyboard back drop, most of all it is something that most do not expect to find in a MGMT song, it is beautiful. It is the perfect closer to a sophomore release as it is basically the band saying ‘congratulations’ to themselves to making it thus far in their career. When it comes down to it MGMT is not that original, their sound is used by many other bands and there are definitely not the first people to invent it, and they know that, but they use what talent they have and more or less, it works.