When they first broke out two years ago, MGMT became beloved by the critic and blog crowd thanks to their catchy music and quirky antics on stage - such as performing in capes. Focusing on the latter, the Brooklyn trippy hippie group didn't need any gimmicks to make it big. Their debut, Oracular Spectacular, was a huge smash in the UK and hit us in the states with infectious songs like "Time to Pretend," "Kids," and "Electric Feel," the latter of which is quite possibly the best song ever. If you don't believe me, ask God.
The Grammy-nominated band's long-awaited follow-up "Congratulations," drops next week (although it's currently streaming on their web site), and sadly (and ironically), there's little to cheer about - at least upon the first couple of listens. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and this is not necessarily a bad review.
The album is filled with one drawn-out psychedelic surf tune after another ("It's Working" starts off the album asking "how will I know if it's working?" hmmmm), and unlike Oracle has no clear hit single on it despite "Flash Delirium" getting considerable radio airplay lately. The funny thing is this all seems intentional by the band. It's as if they recognized their fast fame with catchy choruses, and deliberately put out a record that's mellowy inaccessible. I'm making mellowy a word by the way.
In any event, back to the start. This isn't a bad review. Upon first listen, this album feels like a train wreck: a sophomore jinx that plays out as one long David Bowie wet dream that runs its course early and isn't nearly as good as the real thing. Upon third, fourth, and eighth listen, however, you start to get it. You begin to get the inside joke. The album grows on you like sort of a likable fungus. It almost gets inside of you to the point, where you question how you couldn't enjoy it immediately. "Flash Delirium," the aforementioned first single, is a prime example of this point. When it first came out, I winced. Now, I can't stop playing it. But that's an isolated example. The album is best to listen to as a whole as a friend of mine echoed recently. You have to commit to listening to it from start to finish, because each song bleeds into the other.
Still, there's no doubt this album is hard to get a handle of. "Siberian Breaks," for example, is a blistering 11-plus minute song that feels like ten different songs in one, none of which flow together, and ultimately soars like a bird without wings. Another track that doesn't really work is "Brian Eno," which seems to simply be a somewhat cool track devoted to a cool music icon simply to come off as being cool. The title track, on the other hand, comes off as the only tune remotely similar to any on Oracle. It's a B-side on the first record is the best way to describe it.
Give the young Brooklynites credit for trying something completely new after their surreal debut (I mean, crap, they opened for Paul McCartney), but their out-of-left-field approach is a huge risk. Sure, they didn't try to copycat their first album, but unfortunately, there's not much "electric feel" to any of their second.