Review Summary: MGMT might be alienating their fanbase with this album, but there's sufficient evidence to doubt they're doing it on purpose.
A lot of the press surrounding MGMT's newest release, Congratualtions, is that they've made a deliberate attempt at alienating their apparently undeserved fanbase that latched onto them after the success of their 3 singles, in favor of creating a smaller, more tight-knit cult following with a dense, record that doesn't feature an out-of-the-box hit single. I disagree with this hypothesis. I don't think any band would willingly attempt to clear out half of their fanbase. Sure, you want to stay true to yourself, but at the same time, success is success, and if you're making a full living off of making noise for people to listen to, you don't care who listens to it
I do submit to the idea that MGMT is all about experimenting with their sound, and though they don't always understand the consequences of their actions, their results usually come to fruition in a positive manner. They are making a testament with this record to the fact that they can write more than just psychedelic, 80's-influenced party-bumpers.
MGMT might me alienating their audience, but there's reason to believe they aren't doing it intentionally. MGMT is rather revealing another side of their act, one that they're more comfortable with and feel that they can do well with.
Remember the other half of their debut Oracular Spectacular? Everyone who bought the album who bought it because of their singles listened to the first 5 songs, which contained their 3 singles and two of their more mainstream-friendly ones. Then the second, more out-there group of 5 songs (beginning with "4th Dimensional Transition") came through, and the mainstream junkies that wandered onto the record with the promise of more "Kids" and "Time To Pretend", kept listening with a smile on their face, almost without acknowledging the difference in the first 20-minutes compared to the last.
Congratulations is more of the second half of OS. Sure, you won't hear "Kids, Pt.2" on this record, but to testify there's no single because you're not hearing what you thought you would is unfair. MGMT is more indie alt-rock then they've let on. They themselves have even testified as to being surprised with their immense success, almost as if they didn't feel many people would like it.
So they kept doing what they thought they could do best, which is write more psychedelic, out-there songs. And the community that praised their previous effort turned on them, criticizing them for doing what they thought the community wanted to hear.
This great review by Pitchfork echoes my sentiment, as they, being the insane indie-heads that they are, know what's going on. They've seen many a band rise to popularity and fall by taking a mistep or two, and they, like most of us, pray that doesn't happen to MGMT.
The record itself, for what it is, is actually quite good. With 9 songs, the group goes a more complete, centralized group of songs, and it works. Aside from the 12 minute Siberian Breaks (which just as easily could have been broken into 4 seperate songs), all the songs are perfect in length, and all pull their weight in the scope of the sound.
This record might end up having less spins in your player as a result, and you might prefer to listen to it in one listen more often, as opposed to listening to your favoirte 3 songs. This is their intention. They want the album to be one singular experience. And to that end they've succeeded. But I wouldn't object if they decided to make Oracular Spectacular Part 2 later on in their careers.