MGMT – Congratulations
During the sessions for Oracular Spectacular, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser tossed around Congratulations as the title of their second album as a joke: a sarcastic reference to the fame they didn’t think they would garner after their début. Hell, even their first single “Time To Pretend” laughed at the idea of the rock and roll lifestyle as just a ridiculous fantasy of theirs. A funny thing happened to these Connecticut boys though. Through the use of their singles in movies, television, and video games, as well as a fairly high rotation of their visually stunning music videos, MGMT found themselves with everything from spots opening for Beck, Radiohead, and Paul McCartney to a lawsuit with French president Nicolas Sarkozy. If Congratulations as a title no longer seems ironic, it still isn’t really sincere. The album deals with their fame and success, and it doesn’t exactly sound like it is all islands, cocaine, and elegant cars.
The title track’s biting commentary acts as the flip side of “Time To Pretend,” offering the pitfalls of fortune: “But I’ve got someone to make reports/that tell me how my money’s spent/to book my stays and draw my blinds/so I can’t see what’s really there.” In fact, the album seems like a reaction against the success they didn’t expect to have. The band stated that there will be no officially released singles and none of the songs even approach the immediacy of “Electric Feel” or “Kids.” Instead, MGMT has elaborated on the darker, weirder second half of Oracular Spectacular. This isn’t to say, however, that Congratulations perversely avoids melody and hooks. Instead, songs like “It’s Working” and “Flash Delirium” slowly open themselves up after repeated listens, the latter being a cathartic anthem that is among the best songs the band has ever penned. Ultimately, Congratulations is MGMT’s bid to be taken seriously as musicians and not just a fleeting indie phenomenon, something more than abundant nowadays. Sure, some of the songs here like the 12 minute epic “Siberian Breaks” will be a deal-breaker for listeners expecting something a bit more user-friendly, and “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” is a toss-away instrumental not nearly as interesting as it thinks it is. However, those willing to invest their time into Congratulations will be thoroughly rewarded.