When I first heard MGMT back when Oracular Spectacular was released, I only ever connected with the big hooks on the big hits on the album. A track like "Electric Feel" is unnecessarily catchy. "Kids" is anthemic and has a pulse pounding riff that is inescapable. "Time to Pretend" is a dark yet funny take on fame and, as with the other tracks here listed, is addictive to a high degree. The rest of the disc in general is somewhat forgettable when stacked up with the kind of hooks that these three power players had. Flash-forward to this year. 2010 boasted a new MGMT album and all I could think of is "they are either going to have a sophomore slump or have more mega hits." Well, Congratulations has finally surfaced but a few weeks ago and it is something entirely different. As if evolving into a totally different band, MGMT have a new sound that is spectacular and works in complete opposite to their much loved debut.
Surprisingly, there are no songs like "Electric Feel" or "Kids." Not any sign of that catchy pop sensibility anywhere. Instead we get complex, sprawling tracks that are easily just as catchy, but with a less sunshiny feel. Something seriously sinister is lurking in the background somewhere. What is apparently obvious is that MGMT is not slumping but growing and becoming more than what the debut album would lead you to believe. One thing many reviews points out is that MGMT is "going to lose fans" due to the departure. Well, then screw them for not seeing the light. The album kicks off with a catchy enough tune in "It's Working." The track is a combination of 60's baroque pop with soaring harmonies and a little harpsichord splashed in the background as well as having all the trappings of a post punk band like XTC with it's fast paced guitars and overall spastic drone. Tracks like "Flash Delirium" and "Brian Eno" are two very strangely intriguing and beguiling tracks. "Flash Delirium" slowly morphs and evolves as the track goes on ending in a fast paced punk rock finale that ends abruptly. "Brian Eno" is a strange story about the titular artist/producer that reminds me a little of Oingo Boingo with its jumpy and jittery guitar passages. The grand "Siberian Breaks" is a brilliant epic. Over 12 minutes, the song shape shifts and is extremely progressive in sound. The only track remotely close to possibly being a single is the titular finale, but it's far from the best moment on the album.
MGMT set out to make an album experience as they have said in interviews. They've definitely succeed. Oracular Spectacular is a great collection of tracks with a few dull moments which is better than most bands could wish to do on a debut. Luckily, unlike most bands that start with a bang, Congratulations really blows away the first record. Even if it isn't singles friendly, it's an experience all to itself. It deserves full immersion and start to finish listening only that few artists can pull off without any lulls. This, my friends, may be the best record released this year thus far.