What I’m Listening to: MGMT – Congratulations

13 09 2010

You can make cool music with your shirts on guys.

The boys of psychedelic rock phenomenon MGMT warned the world that their sophomore release would not be the catchy, synth-laden, electro-pop that their massively successful debut was.  They risked completely losing the frat-boy fan base that launched them into stardom over the last couple years. Personally, when I heard the words MGMT and surf-rock in the same sentence, I must admit I was skeptical, and my preconceived notions of what Congratulations would be kept me from giving it the attention I soon realized it deserved. Surf-rock and frat-boy labels aside this album is a legitimate attempt at something fresh and unique.  For a second time Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have ripped the rugs out from under our collective feet and sent us free-falling into musical bliss, once again demonstrating a connection with the new youth counterculture displayed by few other artists.

The first single released, Flash Delirium, is every bit as winding and unnavigable a musical road as its title suggests.  The beginning section sounds like a thrown away theme song for the Flash (the superhero).  It then segues into a familiar bit of bouncy, light-hearted, synth-pop, with VanWyngarden whimpering: “we’re still bending towards the light, and if we dance until the heart explodes it’ll make this place ignite” before launching into some nonsensical spoken word verse about something growing inside a corpse (I don’t often try to make sense out of the lyrics these guys write).  Then just as you think the song has settled into some sort of normalcy it explodes into a punk rock, screamo conclusion that leaves me feeling confused and delirious every time.  As unfollowable as the song is, it sure does have an amazing melody, and you certainly can’t say the band lacks creativity.

Siberian Breaks is easily my favorite track on the album. The chorusy acoustic strumming that opens the track somehow reminds me of the 1990’s. Usually that would be a bad thing, but of course MGMT make it work brilliantly.  This is relaxation music at its finest.  I feel like I could lay the acoustically strummed chords across the sky like a pillow, spread my arms and legs to a full stretch, and fall into a dream.  With the abrupt change to the B section the song takes an interesting, yet equally dreamy turn, taking my hypothetical dream-scape into a circus world of oomp-pah-pahs and amusing elephant parades, before suddenly turning darker. This song has a decidedly Pink Floyd feel to it, with echoing glitches, church hall vocals, and psychedelic breakdowns leading from one section to another.  It sounds like three songs all mashed beautifully (somehow) into one, and just as I think the dream is over it spirals, out of control into it’s climax before landing softly back on the acoustic strums where it began.

I must say that MGMT are slowly making their way to the top of my list of favorite bands.  They are talented (though you can’t say the same for their touring band), daringly original, and representative of the new youth culture in every way.  These factors result in amazing dance music, entrancing psychedelia, and pop-rock anthems, making MGMT one of the most dynamic bands in existence right now.  Given the love I had for their debut, I cannot believe that I shelved this album for so long.  Mr.’s Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, I pledge to never make this same moronic mistake again.

Key Tracks: Flash Delirium, Siberian Breaks, It’s Working

You Might Also Like: Beach House, Pink Floyd, Grizzly Bear, The Flaming Lips

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4 responses

14 09 2010
Anonymous

Siberian breaks is an ammaaaazzzzinnngggg song. Thanks for the links btw

15 09 2010
Dave

Stellar write up. I still slightly resent the “frat-boy fan base” language haha

17 09 2010
Anonymous

I like the old stuff bettter

21 09 2010
The Mental Secretary

I was not aware that frat boys were a demographic of MGMT listeners. I feel all wrong inside now. Particularly because they are my favorite band of the times.

I’m glad you finally got to listen to Congratulations. I didn’t like it at first – but I see why it’s called a grower. Every time I listen to it, I like it more. Even more than OS!

My personal favorite track is a tie between “Congratulations” and “Song for Dan Treacy.” Ben’s keyboards at the end of the title track is phenomenal! And “Song for Dan Treacy” could be on the soundtrack of a campy horror silent film (in a good way).

If “Siberian Breaks” tickles your fancy, I wrote a short story based off of the song on my blog: http://thecrkelley.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/mgmt/
I really like your description of it too. That’s what’s fun about interpretations – they’re so different.

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