Anyone from the age of 18-35 knows the band MGMT and has probably heard their most notable hit “Kids,” but in case you don’t, they’re an American psych band from Connecticut. Specializing in catchy earworms and fuzzy pop dreamscapes, the band burst into relevancy after their 2007 album Oracular Spectacular. While many consider this to be their best project even to this day, they’ve proved since then that they can makes projects with more depth and long lasting impressions than the chart toppers they made on Oracular.
Overrated: Oracular Spectacular
MGMT arguably owes their career to their debut album Oracular Spectacular, but as musicians, this is only the start for them. Featuring songs like “Electric Feel” and “Kids,” MGMT struck a balance between easily digestible pop tunes and electronic experimentation. The album had a little bit for everybody, but at times it does feel a bit thin in terms of songwriting and overall genuineness. How many times can we hear “Kids” in a skate video before we wear it out? The tracks probably took a lot of us by surprise on the first listen, but after repeat rotations, the cracks in the album start to shine right through. The song progressions are very repetitive and crescendo-core and the poppy style that permeates the project comes across better in a party context than it does a critical listen. While this album still has its moments and will always be attributed to MGMT’s overall success, it served mostly as a vehicle for them to make something truly great later on.
After Oracular Spectacular, it seems as if MGMT finally found the funding and support they needed to make the album that they always wanted to make. Congratulations was released three years after Oracular, and to much surprise it received very mixed reception from fans and critics alike. Fans initially believed the group had abandoned their sound for something less polished or groomed. While this may be true to an extent, Congratulations still has glowing production value and a super clean sound. What makes the album truly great however, is how the band came into their own as songwriters. The first track sets the stage and makes it clear this album is more rock & roll than the previous one. “Song for Dan Treacy” is a genius and morphing track that features ghoulish rock organs and time changes that kick the song into high gear. “Flash Delirium” has one of the grooviest bass lines in an MGMT song, featuring Andrew VanWyngarden’s reverb ensnared vocals. The cornerstone piece that makes the album work however, is the 12 minute track, “Siberian Breaks.” It goes through phases of acoustic ballads and electronic tweed, never forgetting its origin while taking the listener on an incredible journey. The vocal harmonies are so simply beautiful, lit up by the huge reverb that makes the song feel like a worship service on acid. Overall, track for track, Congratulations still holds up as MGMT’s most cohesive and ambitious project. There isn’t one dud to be found on this psychedelic masterpiece, an impressive feat for a band that seemed to eclipse the sun with their very first album three years before.