Review Summary: "Congratulations" is not the first warm day of the year that "Oracular Spectacular" was, it is the full realization of the expanse of a summer to come. A little scary, but full of possibilities, continuous warmth. Metaphors aside, MGMT conquer the clic
Arguably (but not really), there are two very exciting days in the Spring. The First is the miraculous first day of warm weather. You wake up and holy ***! it's 60 degrees! Basketball gets pumped up, socks get ignored, beer gets cracked at noon, and there is an immediate elation and Electric Feel and a feeling of invincibility and myopic optimism. You're Fated to Pretend that this Weekend there aren't any Wars and the Kids and Youth in you will live at the forefront, without any Future Reflections to burst your temporary bubble or warmth and comfort.
Unfortunately this doesn't not last. The frost the next morning makes you but angry. Fool me once, once bitten, etc...
The Second, after you've grappled with shame and shyness, and you peak outside to find it is 70 degrees. It actually has been 70 for few days now, and it's going to be 70 for the whole rest of the week. The sun is casting shadows off the new flora. This is it. The beginning of the summer to come, pregnant with possibilities of running through the posies, swimming in fountains, and robbing the night of its silence. It is daunting. It is expansive and intimidating. The infinity of it is almost scary. Don't close your eyes. You've made it: "Congratulations."
Normally, you're first step sets the gait for your second step. MGMT's "Oracular Spectacular" just blew the hell up after a long fuse that sparked from 2008 well into 2009. "Electric Feel" was blasted at the college bars, "Time To Pretend" made its way to Top 40 radio, and "Kids" found its way into Karaoke books, even. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser championed their super sweet synth pop across the world with no modicum of success, toured with sonic cousins Of Montreal, and fell directly in to the hearts of bugaloo-happy indippys. Clad in a tie-dyed cape that he possibly found in the mud in a farm in New York state sometime in 1969, VanWyngarden hopped around stages and sang to the kids moving and grooving to support his debut.
"Congratulations" confounds and expands on their debut, making their second step more of a diagonal leap towards organic narcotic naturalism. The lyrics spiral with involuted imagery that at times make Cream's Disraeli Gears seem entirely pedestrian and grounded. "Flash Delirum", a chameleon prog-rocker comes replete with copious reverb and even an occasional flute riff. It is MGMT's lament on the general State of Things viewed through the lens of a seriously addled mind boasting lyrics like "the mirror ball is throwing mold/you can't get a grip if there's nothing to hold/see the flash catch a white lilly and wilt/but if you must smash a glass first fill it to the hilt." It's pretty rad.
It's also no coincidence that this album has overt titular shout-outs to "Brian Eno" and the lesser known "(Song for) Dan Treacy" (just wikipedia him. I did). The former describes an encounter with an etherial Eno in a Transylvanian cathedral and brings about the most up-tempo punky song on the album. One can't help but grin at the deifying and lionization of Eno, titling him after the Return To Forever-esque breakdown, "Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste De La Salle Eno".
Tongue in cheekiness aside, "Congratulations" also sports a handful of breezy psych-pop tunes which which you can inhale the good, and exhale the bad. The zen waltz ballad "I've Found A Whistle" sways with the essence of escapism from a nightmare. "Siberian Brakes", the twelve minute cycle meanders a bit and gets lost in its own grandiosity, but coalesces eventually as most epic twelve minute cycles do. You should time your high to peak right about here much in the same way you would "Within You, Without You" or "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
The title track at the close of the album might be MGMT's best song yet. Did I mention these guys know how to write a got-am song? Their musical craftsmanship is the overwhelming positive note that will carry you through the album. Their maturity and inventiveness is what makes "Congratulations" (song and album now) like stepping out and realizing there's so much to be had. It's daunting, it's scary, but it's delightful. The sun is shining on MGMT, and this album will make you want to take in the rays and lay in the grass and ponder about everything that is, was, and will be. This album ain't a trick, it's the real deal.