Can we get something straight here? MGMT have NOT committed career suicide. They haven’t gone and made a weird, super-psychedelic and out-there record that isn’t accessible to anyone and everyone, and they definitely haven’t left their more poppy, “Oracular Spectacular” roots. Anyone who says that obviously hasn’t listened to the full album or if they have, they obviously weren’t listening very hard.
The fact is that MGMT haven’t disappeared into a weird miasma, even though they never intended themseves to be a pop band. Let’s be frank here: if you listened beyond the singles of “Oracular Spectacular” and heard the likes of “The Youth”, “Pieces of What”, “The Handshake” and “Future Reflections” then you knew that there was more to MGMT than that band who did “Kids” (not that I’m dissing “Kids” of course). To all those people who liked MGMT because of two or three songs, the band have just recorded a two-fingered salute to the lot of you. “Congratulations” is for the real fans.
Here’s why: in the middle of the record there is “Siberian Breaks”, a 12-minute long, strangely compelling piece that sounds more like several songs strung together. Really MGMT have pieced together a medley of 2-minute long songs to make a hypnotic composition, moving from the sultry to the psychedelic to the downright dreamy with relative ease. You get the niggling feeling that every seed that pops into MGMT’s heads just about germinate before flitting to another style or mood here. Basically, they’re not fully-formed pieces for people who like a good structure. Much like most of the album here.
Of course, we must all know about “Flash Delirium”, the swirling and untamed beast (I think it’s fair to call it a beast, in light of the fact that it becomes incredibly raucous by the end) that is dramatic and oddly complex in its own detached sort of way. Then there’s “Brian Eno”, a kind of mad inside joke that sounds comical and could become incredibly annoying to anyone who doesn’t get the strange humour in it (of course, “Time to Pretend” was deeply ironic, but how many people picked up on that?)
We mustn’t forget that there are actally songs on here though. MGMT haven’t completely abandoned the notion of writing a “proper song” and it shows at the beginning of the album. “It’s Working” is a wonderful opener, grabbing you and making you instantly realise that the ideas of “career suicide” were just myths and nothing else. “Song For Dan Treacy” too has a defined structure, even if its psychedelic edge might leave some people slightly irritated. In fact, “Dan Treacy” makes me think that the idea of surfing on the front cover is entirely appropriate: I could easily imagine listening to this song while at the beach, riding the waves (if I could ride the waves). “Someone’s Missing” is perhaps this album’s “Pieces of What”, an oddly strained, tender piece that stands out in the album as the kind of sane moment in a sea of relative madness. If you only plump for one song, you could play it safe and go for this.
MGMT haven’t written the obituary on their own musical career, although no doubt this album as a whole will alienate a whole army of fans who believe that they’re pop princes rather than odd troubadours. But if you were more gripped by the underplayed, underrated songs of “Oracular Spectacular” then after a couple of plays you really shouldn’t be disappointed by their sophomore effort. Stick with it.