All year, I have been talking about how many bands are adopting a more mainstream sound.
While it is unclear if bands do this to make more money or whether it’s what they want to do, they always end up more successful.
Bands that have adopted a more accessible sound, like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, etc, have turned mainstream after many years and albums in obscurity, after much time on the fringes of the music world (especially Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors).
But what do you do if you’re a psychedelic band who has had vast commercial success with their first album?
It seems that MGMT pondered their fate after their vastly successful debut album, “Oracular Spectacular.”
They had a choice to either continue in the tradition of “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” and play to the popular audiences with cool dance-pop, or go in the tradition of “4th Dimensional Transition” and “Future Reflections” and get in touch with their more psychedelic roots.
MGMT provides us with a definitive answer with “Congratulations.”
While I can’t say they prove it right away, because “Oracular Spectacular” was a decent mix of their poppy stuff and of their psychedelic stuff, the first track at least tells us that MGMT is taking a different direction.
“It’s Working” dives in right away to a surf-rock/psychedelic that sounds completely different from anything on “Oracular Spectacular.”
The rest of the album is markedly different from its precursor in several ways.
First, unlike “Oracular Spectacular,” “Congratulations” never kicks into “dance” mode.
If you only liked “Kids” and “Time to Pretend” on their previous album, I doubt you will like MGMT’s new effort.
“Congratulations” feels as though MGMT went back to their roots; however, they can’t decide which roots they like the best.
This album is virtual grabbag of genres packed throughout the album.
While “Oracular Spectacular” had a nice blend of psychedelic, dance-pop, rock, and
alternative, “Congratulations” has a clusters together multiple genres into a song with sharp transitions.
For instance in “Flash Delirium,” it goes from alternative, to electronic dance, to punk.
It’s a good song, but it is an example of MGMT doing their own thing; even if they can’t decide exactly what they want to do.
According to the internet, this album has been pretty divisive. Two sides have developed in the debate: the “true fans” and the people who don’t like this album. The blogs have been a little hostile to the people who don’t like this album, because they say they are just the fake fans who only like “Time to Pretend” and “Kids.”
For me, I’m really on both sides of this debate. I have to admit my favorite songs off of “Oracular Spectacular” were “Kids” and “Time to Pretend.”
Why not? Those songs were really catchy.
But I also liked their other stuff. That said, I’m not accosting the people who only like those two songs. They are great songs; if you’re not into their other stuff that’s perfectly fine.
If those are the only two songs on your iPod, “Congratulations” may not be for you.
If you enjoyed “Oracular Spectacular” in its entiry, however, you will probably enjoy this album.
While it has plunged into less poppy and more freaky waters, “Congratulations” is an moderately good album worthy of a couple of listens; however, there really isn’t a “wow” factor anywhere in the album.
MGMT has bucked the trend of bands becoming accessible, but it unclear whether it will work out for them in the end.
Although, many may buy it just for that sweet album cover art.
WARC 90.3’s Weekly Top 5
1 Vampire Weekend, “Contra”
2 Beach House, “Teen Dream”
3 Real Estate, “Real Estate”
4 Drops, “Spillin”
5 Etienne Jaumet, “Night Music”