After the surprising success of Oracular Spectacular, all indications from MGMT would point towards a different direction. They had no need to reproduce a singles-heavy album in search of hordes of fans; if anything, they acknowledged that the new record, Congratulations, might be off-putting for many of the fans who came their way after hits such as “Kids” or “Time to Pretend.” While the band jump as far away as possible, this record, for musical accomplishments is by no means a letdown.
Opening moments of the album show a more developed group. “It’s Working” immediately demonstrates that while they’ll remain playful, they won’t simply rely upon access to simple hooks, choosing instead to allow the joy in their work unfold as the songs carry on to their end. For some reason, MGMT just sound more complete at this point.
Along the same lines as the first number, “Song for Dan Treacy” resembles the early works of Islands. It uses odd time stops and oddball effects to draw you into the tune while refraining from becoming over-indulgent in the electronic backbone of the music, as some might have said in regards to their last album. Similarly, MGMT use slow pacing for “Someone’s Missing” to let the song unfold before the listener’s ears, and unfold it does with 45 seconds to go, as the euphoric chanting of the song title with improved percussion bring the song to its end.
“Flash Delirium” is probably the best “single” on the record, if that’s what you’re looking for here. It recalls the storytelling of Grandaddy, along with the approach of using space-age electronic sounds to build up the chorus. Once again, the use the ending of the song to tell an entirely different musical story, so be sure not skip ahead, as you might miss some of the musical message hidden beneath.
One of the joys of this album is in the evolution of the band. Their last album hit you hard in the beginning, but left you sort of bored near the end (at least for me), but the slow-burners on Congratulations have a much larger impact here. “I Found a Whistle” just seems to trudge along, and while a bit of vocal inflection might have improved it a touch, it’s still one of those songs you’d put on a chill mixtape for a buddy. You could even include it right along “Congratulations,” which is certainly a great song. All those slow moments that bored last time around, are somehow more interesting here, and that may be due to the well thought-out ordering of songs. They’ve spaced out the slower moments between pop elements and experimenting (see “Siberian Breaks”). You have to give them credit; it’s a much more effective approach, and infinitely more rewarding.
One problem with Oracular Spectacular lay in the fact that you enjoyed it immensely upon first listen, but the hooks wore out the more you chose to spin the record. In contrast, Congratulations is a much different affair. It’s not set out to make you dance in the same manner, nor does it intend to rely upon singles to boost album sales. Instead, MGMT have chosen to focus on their writing, which not only make the songs better, but make the record itself much more durable. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Download: MGMT – Flash Delerium [MP3]