MGMT has the same problem that many bands have going into a second record after a successful debut. Usually one of two things happens: they can of make another record along the same vein of the catchy tech pop songs as the first release or start over and write a completely new record. It appears that MGMT veered towards the second. As a person who bought Oracular Spectacular, I am surprised that they would stray so far from the hits (“Kids” or “Time To Pretend”) that earned them their first Grammy nominations.
However, on April 13th MGMT released their second record entitled, Congratulations. There are nine tracks of somewhat forgettable spacey-psych 70’s songs that are packed with confusion from start to finish. It sounds as if the band skipped a few pages, assuming that their immediate debut success would carry over with the risks they took for this one. The first song, “Its Working”, is an immediate indication that the record is moving in a different direction. Congratulations progresses with songs like “Brian Eno” that show the inconsistencies of the record and remind us how hard the process is to follow. Other songs include “Congratulations”, “Flash Delirium” and “Siberian Breaks”. They sound like they took the in-studio production to a level too far. These songs are layered with such complex parts that they could each be multiple tracks, leaving the listener overwhelmed.
In comparison to Oracular Spectacular, this record takes substantially more time to unravel – if it’s even possible. It’s clear that MGMT has it all figured out but they didn’t leave a trail for the rest of us to follow. Some might applaud MGMT for taking a step in a different direction but I imagine it will end as their biggest fault because the album’s lack of cohesion that makes it so forgettable. Congratulations carries on in a way that has no direction and I think for a band who earned such a strong fan base, they might have a hell of a time trying to get them back.
Perhaps, Congratulations is a strategic plan on behalf of the band. I wonder if by releasing the radio hits, it gave them the credibility to carry on to a more creative record? By comparison to the old record, this is nothing like it. If you want to dance, go dig out their first album because Congratulations will only leave you confused. I am not sure if MGMT will ultimately pay for flip-flopping but it’s highly unlikely they will go platinum with this one.