Ah, the fated follow up album. As you would expect from the group that gave us the mesmerising and catchy ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ the expectations are high.
The opening track, ‘It’s Working’ grabs you with warm, punchy and energetic bass bobbing away under layers of MGMT’s heavily treated, eerie trademark vocals. It lulls you in with semi-familiar electronic sounds fused with a touch of psychedelia, a dash of harpsichord and a driving gated back beat on the drums, creating a toe tapping opener.
The album has some really interesting levels and a complexity that vergers on masterful.
That said there is nothing as catchy or as striking on Congratulations as with Oracle Spectacular. The new tunes have a clear absence of hooks, catchy melodies and just downright danceability and that’s ok. Reminiscent of a (at times frightful) daydream, there is a consistency of tone and intricacy to this album that begins to border on poetry rather than pop music.
The dedications of ‘Brian Eno’ and ‘Song for Dan Treacy’ combined with tracks going from slight moody time changes to drastic style shifts mid song give you a sense that the boys have had a great time experimenting with this album. This bold move will leave some fans disappointed and others admiring the complex arrangements, artful use of studio effects and well placed counter melodies filtering in and out of the background.
The extremely moody ‘Siberian Breaks’ is littered with sonic references to psychedelic rock, with perhaps one too many time and tempo changes that leave you feeling like the track is over several times throughout this twelve minute marathon. The whirly organs and the ethereal delayed guitars combined with the constant changes could wear the listener down somewhat as, let’s face it, everyone loves a good ol’ catchy pop tune and this certainly isn’t one.
After an, at times, challenging journey, Congratulations finishes off with the title track and a return to a more melodic pop style with witty reflections on a rock star’s need for attention: “I’d rather dissolve than have you ignore me…. all I need is a great big congratulations”. This track could easily sum up the album; well produced slightly tongue in cheek psychedelic pop with cleverly crafted lyrics and an earnest need for approval. Rather comically they give themselves that, finishing with a round of applause for the final track. Don’t worry boys, I’ll clap too.