Where have all the synths gone?
The sophomore album by MGMT is synthless. And this alone will drive away most fans of “Electric Feel,” “Time to Pretend,” and “Kids” from their debut album, 2007’s Oracular Spectacular. But there’s one more thing, there aren’t any pop hit singles coming out of 2010’s Congratulations! Exit dancing hipsters on E.
Not only is the commercial viability of this album weakened substantially by the absence of the “single” but the album was leaked more than a full three weeks in advance of the album release. How did MGMT respond? Well, they streamed the whole album on their website for people to listen to. And the band included this statement along the header of the streaming music page, “Hey everybody, the album leaked, and we wanted you to be able to hear it from us. We wanted to offer it as a free download but that didn’t make sense to anyone but us.”
The studio viceroys have put their foot down. But what about MGMT? Don’t they care about making money? I mean, Oracular Spectacular sold over a million copies world wide. “How about a repeat performance?” I can imagine Columbia records saying.
In return, MGMT has already answered the question. “Time to Pretend,” a fantastic ballad, when listened closely is an exaggerated joke. I can remember a few years ago when my friends and I talked big shit about making movies and becoming famous but we never did anything but get high. With the benefit of hindsight I can see the parallel lines. MGMT didn’t do it for the fame and fortune. They wanted desperately to speak and be heard. Sounds kind of cliche but just youtube their old stuff from their college days and you’ll get what I’m saying.
I still want more synth! Damnit!
Simply put and with only a first listen, Congratulations is an extended second half of Oracular Spectacular. Anyone remember that track “4th Dimensional Transition” from Oracular? If you don’t then you suck because this track and the rest thereafter are incredible, establishing a full range of musical talent. “Of Moons, Birds and Monsters” is personally my favorite track from Oracular. I have to admit, though, I was caught off guard from the absence of dance-y synth tracks.
Upon a fourth or fifth listening Congratulations was growing like weeds in my eardrums. Remember, they had to get a band together for touring after the success of Oracular; two guys behind a laptop is seldom executed well especially if you’ve got punk alternative rock to play. This sophomore album was created with the full band in mind.
Great cinematography and production design. And, fucking weird.
*”What can you say about all your successes?” I ask into my microphone which I then point to Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. They answered with a 9 track album. Congratulations; the title says it all. “It’s Working” a requiem for drug abuse, contains brilliant lyrics and a raw sound. “Someone’s Missing” is a moody, haunting track but as the short song ends it suddenly becomes something out of Sgt. Pepper’s. “Siberian Breaks” is a 6 or 7 part song (I can’t count it really). At twelve minutes, its epic, which is why it belonged on vinyl as it was released on Record Store Day. I can’t get enough of this album. The lyrical quality and complex sounds emanating from everything (but synths) is a mature statement for only a second release.
Have a listen on their website; hate it or love it they want you to hear it.
*Forgive my meta-interview moment.