Apr 15, 2010 Web Exclusive
Career suicide, heinous album art, and no regard for their fanbase. Those have been the three themes bandied about most often in early appraisals of Congratulations. And while following up the smash commercial and critical success of 2008's Oracular Spectacular, an album featuring no less than three absolutely scorching indie dance floor stompers in "Kids," "Time to Pretend," and "Electric Feel," the duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser this time delve deeply into their arcane record collections, unearthing such obscure '60 psych as The Electric Prunes and Baroque pop act The Left Banke, alongside '80s British indie icons Teardrop Explodes.
As has been so widely publicized, there aren't any infectious electro rave-up singles to be found here. Yet the Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom, ex-Spacemen 3) produced record is considerably more cohesive than Oracular. The first single, "Flash Delerium" has the best chance of capturing the attention of the band's more casual fanbase, building on a metronomic drum machine patter that evokes the minimalism of Suicide before flowering into a schizoid sing-song like some lysergic 45 played on pirate radio circa 1969.
Two musical icons, Dan Treacy and Brian Eno, are each given shout-outs, although the respective impetuses couldn't be farther removed from one another. Treacy's underappreciated genius is invoked on "Song For Dan Treacy," a tune feting The Televisions Personalities' eccentric, beleaguered founder, copping his band's shambolic ethos while sending up his knack for rendering songs about the prosaically compelling, as VanWyngarden gushes effusively, "In the middle of the park/When the underground is dark/He's a poet."
The brisk psychedelic groove of "Brian Eno" is more of a commentary on the bizarrely conflicted nature of his legend, finding VanWyngarden cheekily urging with alacrity, "If I was telling lies you'd probably know/But we're always one step behind him/He's Brian Eno."
These two tracks are emblematic of the dichotomy at the heart of post-Oracular MGMT-how to straddle the line between the mainstream and underground without losing your mind or integrity. They never fully reconcile this conundrum, but have nonetheless created a fine record, which, while distantly removed stylistically from their first, doesn't lose grasp of their innate pop instincts, channeling them in a more elliptical, silvery manner. This new context may be initially off-putting, but ultimately the payoff's that much greater. (www.whoismgmt.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10