If you’ve heard about Brooklyn psychedelic hipster rock band MGMT’s new album “Congratulations,” out on April 13 from Columbia Records, you’re probably wondering what the celebration is all about. Three years ago, this unknown Wesleyan-educated duo served us the coked-up Dionysian dream of “Time to Pretend” and the practically porn-like groove of “Electric Feel.” Bow chicka wow wow.
Ultimately, the band that once mocked fame would suddenly become world famous. A self-fulfilling prophecy, indeed. They stomped all over the globe with superacts like Paul McCartney, Yeasayer and Of Montreal. They played all the major festivals, were remixed and covered by everybody and poured out of hip speakers and earbuds all over the planet. But on “Congratulations,” the band takes a risk and shifts away from the sound we’ve grown to love and the result is a less commercial, more mature sounding album.
Who hasn’t heard an MGMT song by now, especially since we all found out they were coming for Spring Fling? Their 2007 release “Oracular Spectacular” sold more than a million copies worldwide. But this time, according to the band, “Congratulations” may not have a one radio-ready song on it. The whole Internet freaked out when they released the lead single “Flash Delirium” on their website. Some loved it and some hated it. But MGMT couldn’t care less, fools. Ben Goldwasser told Billboard, “We’re not that concerned with having a No. 1 record or anything like that.” Andrew VanWyngarden added, “We never set out to be as big as possible.”
The hotly anticipated “Congratulations” is definitely a sonic departure from Oracular, but it’s a welcome one. And don’t worry – they may have changed their sound, but they’re still the same weird dudes. The opening track “It’s Working” (“How will I know if it’s working?” – mmmhm!) features a steady harpsichord-sounding instrument that gyrates behind the steady drum pulse and underneath the dreamy vocals. Very MGMT. To me, “It’s Working” is an old school sounding track and it makes me think about a number of British rock bands.
Every time I turn on “Song For Dan Treacy,” I can’t help but think about Babyshambles, at least for a second. Turn it on and tell me you don’t think the same thing at first. The song just breezes by, kind of like you’re surfing. And if you’re not careful, you’ll miss the wave. “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” not my favorite track but a fine way to wind the album down, doesn’t have any words but, like, do you get the reference?! Anybody care to philosophize on the song’s deeper meaning?
Other pop-out tracks are “Someone’s Missing,” which goes down slow and smooth, but then busts out at the last 45-seconds. If you listen closely, you can just hear the twang of “Electric Feel.” “Brian Eno” and “Flash Delirium” are also single ready and you’ll probably hear these tracks at every bar you go to this summer, wherever you are.
All told, “Congratulations” is a great sophomore album. The sound is slightly less electronic and much fuller. Now they sound like the indie band I’ve always wanted. You know, I had an issue with MGMT during their “Oracular” days. I always felt that album didn’t make any sense as a whole. It sounded like a pu pu platter of totally indigestible radio tracks. The good songs were fabulous, but the bad ones were a hot mess. I fell in love with the three tracks that would eventually become the band’s calling card, though. And the first time I heard “Electric Feel,” I nearly passed out from its genius. But ultimately, the refreshing thing about “Congratulations” is that it really works as an album. I know we’re in the age of the $1.29 iTunes per-song download, but this is an album you need to hear from start to finish.
“Congratulations” brings the band a new sound worth celebrating. There’s even canned applause at the end.