Oh, go ahead and get your “Where’s my ‘Kids’?” out of the way; I know it doesn’t sound like Oracular Spectacular. There’s no big, poppy single, blah, blah, blah. I’ve even heard a “there’s no heart in this one.” Optimistically, my ears are deceiving me on one level or another.
Congratulations, the second effort from psychotic, psychedelic alterna-pop team MGMT is far more a Wish You Were Here than a Time to Pretend Part Three.
The first and most obvious observation would be the existence of an intimidating set of layers that the group has structured around their “poppy-at-heart” melodies. Unofficial first single, “Flash Delirium,” is an alluring melody “garment,” painstakingly formed from absolutely magical melody bits.. But is shockingly difficult on the first listen.
Granted, there are some less perplexing tunes; “Brian Eno,” and title-track “Congratulations,” but the more rewarding tracks are buried under even more strategic orchestral layers and cryptic arrangement combinations. “Siberian Breaks,” a twelve-minute medley of dreamy synth and fascinating vocal harmonies, is a mind-boggling masterpiece yielding little-to-no poppy instantaneousness. Yet, it is easily one of MGMT’s greatest accomplishments, and is the crown jewel of the record.
Rationally, the scale does boomerang back into the other side of the equation with a handful of (much) shorter, more radio-friendly tracks. “It’s Working” is a brief blast of surfy jams and shimmering, dynamic harmonies; and “Song for Dan Treacy” follows it cleverly with a contagious rhythm and fittingly sticky melodic phrases. It’s a balancing act that would make even Lady “DaDa” dizzy.
But the thrill of the musical cruising and the rush of the stimulating rusing really are the driving forces behind Congratulations. As with any other great piece of music and visual art— the more you examine it, the greater it becomes.