MGMT could care less about your expectations.
Sure, the psychedelic poptronica of their Oracular Spectacular debut set a new benchmark for 21st century pop music. Its slow-burning success was never calculated, though. In fact, Spectacular‘s gradual omnipresence could best be described as a happy accident (Amanda Walk’s legwork notwithstanding). Congratulations, the ridonkulously anticipated follow-up due Tuesday (streaming now via their site), is bound to confound expectations. Still, anyone familiar with MGMT’s early days will hardly be surprised.
“We would write a new song for each show and our shows would be 15 minutes long,” says MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden.
The jury’s still out on whether their fame will exceed that. VanWyngarden and partner-in-musical-crime Ben Goldwasser would apparently prefer to remain restless sonic explorers than slaves to their accidentally winning formula. The decision to bring a relatively obscure producer on board for Congratulations is evidence. Whereas Spectacular was overseen by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips/Sleater-Kinney), Congratulations was helmed by one-time Spacemen 3 member Pete “Sonic Boom” Kemper.
Yeah, I had to Google him too.
There’s no question Spectacular‘s songs are strong, but one might argue it’s the production that makes them truly sing. Kemper’s vision certainly isn’t unlistenable (far from it), it’s just different. Vastly different in places, and not-so-vastly different in others. The signature synths that made Spectacular such an aural pleasure are definitely noticeably missing. Also, Congratulations’ drums are both more acoustic and less prominent in the mix. Danceability suffers some as a result (at least until remixers get kits).
For better or worse, several tracks remind me of Ween.
Plenty of fans will inevitably disown Congratulations, but Spectacular simply wouldn’t have been possible in the first place without MGMT’s perpetually adventurous spirit.