MGMT - Congratulations
Some people will do anything for fame it seems. Within the music business, rumours of pacts with the devil have been rife down through the years, from Robert Johnson to Led Zeppelin. Elsewhere, recent horror flick Jennifer's Body saw poor Megan Fox’s character being sacrificed by an indie band looking for an easy route to fame. Coming at this from another angle, however, how many bands can lay claim to garnering instant fame, basking in it very briefly, hating it and then fleeing from it as quickly as possible? MGMT have done just that.
Their first album, Oracular Spectacular, was a smash hit. The singles 'Kids,' 'Electric Feel' and 'Time To Pretend' became more than just anthems; they sucked in radio play, became YouTube favourites, and brought the band the kind of transglobal success that Bono would be envious of. By the end of the noughties, the duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser may as well have had the word SUPERSTARS tattooed across their foreheads. Rather than build on their new-found notoriety, however, the pair retreated to a cabin with former Spacemen 3 mainstay Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember, and quietly recorded this second album with a promise of no sugary pop tracks and not one single. The world (and Bono) waited.
The opening track here, 'It's Working', was presumably chosen to wave the listener on in with calls of “Look, don't be scared. We said a lot of things would change, but essentially we're still the same two guys!” And it's true. It's a typically trippy number with halcyon vocals, piano and drums all wrapped around an irresistible ‘60s vibe. It is, inevitably, yet another MGMT instant classic. Sorry, guys!
If it wasn't so short, 'Someone's Missing' – a mini-masterpiece in its own right – would surely become another radio-friendly hit. One of the standouts here, it demands repeated plays even after the first listen. The fact is that MGMT do climaxes and choruses like no one else; if they really wanted to escape from fame, they could quite easily make a living writing Christmas ditties or ads for TV.
Barring twelve-minute opus 'Siberian Breaks', the short and sweet pop songs roll by one after another without a glitch. With instrumental track 'Lady Dada's Nightmare' coming on like an ‘80s Bryan Ferry film soundtrack, replete with haunting, scratchy peaks, this second outing is certainly more mature than Oracular Spectacular. The glorious title track rounds off a fantastic selection of songs in disarmingly straightforward fashion, an acoustic guitar and echoing words combining to sum up the MGMT mantra: “It's hardly sink or swim / When all is well / If the ticket sells…”
They may hate fame – and, indeed, go to some lengths to dispel it – but as long as they continue to record as MGMT they're going to be pursued by the celebrity hurricane. In coming to grips with that most slippery of slopes, the ‘difficult second album’, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser have delivered a virtually filler-free showcase of their knack for crafting effortlessly charming material.
Congratulations are certainly in order!