Review Summary: We refuse to be pinned down.
Socially and commercially accepted as the bastard child of Middletown duo, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, 2010s Congratulations
was met with a very mixed response upon release. Taking a creative departure from their synthpop roots found on their debut album Oracular Spectacular
was much more rock oriented, leaving most of their catchy electronic hooks and beats behind and focusing more on a modern take of the golden era of psych rock.
“Wait…these are the same guys that do Kids, right?”
It was a shock to all that the sound that had defined a band so adamantly was mysteriously absent on their next release. The closest thing we got to relive it was the scattered electronic sampling found in the albums 12-minute centerpiece, ‘Siberian Breaks’, and even then, it was rationed. But in the end, the band performing a 180 on themselves was a smart decision, because Congratulations
was good. Really good. And without that departure, it wouldn’t have been the stepping stone which would eventually lead us to their third full-length, MGMT
The sound of MGMT’s third album could most effectively be described as a culmination of their two previous endeavors. It’s still very much led by a psychedelic rock sound, more often than not shifting gear to take a more ambient electronic approach in certain areas, with the almost melancholy opening to ‘A Good Sadness’ being a particular standout. The combination of the two directions creates a really potent daydream-like atmosphere found within the album as a whole. Even the most radio-friendly of the bunch and lead single ‘Your Life Is A Lie’ echoes a sense of reverie within the listener, all the while maintaining catchy lyrics in a simple, almost danceable beat.
“Here is the deal / Open your eyes / Your life is a lie / Don’t say a word / I’ll tell you why.”
It’s this kind of juxtaposition that MGMT pull off so well and maintain throughout their record. Each track manages to flow into the next with relative ease all without sacrificing atmosphere or the summery psych-rock feel across the albums ten tracks. Despite this, MGMT
is an album that has a wide variety of clear influences, yet utilizes all of them in a way that make it nearly impossible to class. ‘Cool Song No. 2’ opens with an almost tribal-like drum sound that segues into the fuzzy, garage rock sounding jam of ‘Mystery Disease’. It’s because of the admirable creative chemistry of VanWyngarden and Goldwasser that MGMT manage to get away with this amalgamation of genres, without coming off as overstuffed or undecidedly grasping at straws. Both talented multi-instrumentalists, they aren’t restricted to just doing “their part” and absolve themselves of being shoehorned.
Perhaps it was the fact that Oracular Spectacular
spawned so many standout hits, that anything not dubbed as a single was automatically seen as inferior in comparison, and yet it’s MGMT
’s consistency that really sets it apart from its predecessor’s. Each track can stand on isolated listens, but the album really fluctuates as a whole, the listener picking up things gone unnoticed on previous album cycles, consolidating the entire record. VanWyngarden and Goldwasser have crafted an album that’s constantly changing, and it’s the ridiculous amount of variety held within its 45-minute runtime that make MGMT
a truly rewarding listen. Self-titled records have always been used as a calling card for a band finding their feet, and suffice to say that is the case here, as with their third full-length, MGMT really hit the nail on the head, tallying their combined strengths to create their strongest and most consistent record to date.