Congratulations is the second album from duo MGMT, one of the many great bands from hipster mecca Brooklyn. Following 2007′s effortlessly catchy debut Oracular Spectacular, they worked with producer Pete “Sonic Boom,” member of legendary psych-rockers Spacemen 3. They describe Congratulations as “a collection of nine individual musical tours de force sequenced to flow with sonic and thematic coherence.” Say what? The new album is meant to be a complete body of songs rather than an album with standout singles, so if you expect another “Time To Pretend,” “Kids,” or “Electric Feel,” turn away right now. The production is ranging from ’60s psych rock to ’70s theatrical over-the-top compositions and is drenched in an obsession with Ray Davies, Syd Barrett, Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan. It’s a stylistic departure, a statement against the overwhelming rise to fame, and not wanting to meet expectations on the second album.
First track “It’s Working” leads off with an airy ’60s feel with harpsichords, spacey synths and bouncing bass. Tribute track “Song For Dan Treacy” follows with its power pop and sounds like a hidden track from Ash’s 1977. “Someone’s Missing” opens like chamber pop with echo-heavy vocals from Andrew Van Wyngarden, but turns into a Motown song with some glam-rock vocal reverb before fading out at 2:30. The album’s strongest track is the early leaked “Flash Delirium,” a fresh sounding song with Bowie-tinged psychedelia in a Flaming Lips-esque melting pot, and going all thrash metal at the end. “Siberian Breaks” opens up beautifully like a Kings Of Convenience ballad, but soon turns into an epic and proggy multi-part and genre-shifting orchestral affair. The album’s second tribute is the hook-filled “Brian Eno,” sounding like garage-prog, if there is such thing. Wrapping up the record is the title track “Congratulations,” a slow tempo and relaxing ballad that will work great for peaceful summer nights. It ends with applause, like an ironic pat on their own back.
The whole album is a spacey trip, and it acquires several listenings to be on their side. They’re definitely not stagnant, but it’s still a step back from their debut—not in time, but in appeal.