Brooklyn’s finest, the electro-pop duo of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser better known as MGMT, follow up their highly-lauded 2008 debut Oracular Spectacular with Congratulations, an album that finds them bravely taking things in a whole new direction.
Being that their last album was known for its feel-good club favorites — primarily Time To Pretend and Kids — the band complained that people didn’t listen to the entire album as a single body of work. So this time they’ve gone out of their way to change things. They’ve abandoned traditional song structure (with one song that’s actually 12 minutes long), along with pop choruses, in favor of a more experimental, less accessible sound.
That’s not to say the music isn’t captivating. Appropriately namechecking Brian Eno on one track, the guys have discovered some new bands thanks to the album’s co-producer Sonic Boom, of Spaceman 3 fame, resulting in an electro-trippy sound that’s far more airy and psychedelic, with swirling synthesizers, spacey vocals and inventive lyrical content.
It would be nice to think that this is just where the former Wesleyan alums creative genius steered them — right to outerspace like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and all that — but let’s face it, this was likely far more contrived than even Bowie’s alter-ego. The band announced there is no single, a strange move if you want radio play, and a bold move for a sophomore album following up an almost impossible-to-match debut. And they’ve said they have no interest in playing arenas where “you have to act larger than life.” Perhaps it’s all their way of alienating fans, bowing out of the numbers game and admitting it was just beginner’s luck?
Or maybe they really to be recognized as serious, non-commercial artists. “We said from the beginning that this wasn’t about getting as famous as possible or selling lots of records for us,” VanWyngarden said recently. And though the album closes with applause, he has also pointed out that the title is not a literal congratulation to themselves on the new album or all their success to date. “I think it’s got a negative stance, negative look at success. It’s definitely not sincere congratulations.”
The guys kicked off their spring tour in San Francisco last night, which will take them to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, this Saturday, and Lollapalooza. They’ll also make their debut appearance on Saturday Night Live on April 24.
MGMT on tour:
April 13 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
April 17 Indio, CA Coachella
April 29 Toronto, ON The Mod Club Theatre
April 30 Durham, NH University of New Hamsphire
May 2 East Rutherford, NJ Meadowlands Sports Complex (Bamboozle)
May 28 San Luis Obispo, CA Avila Beach Bowl
May 29 Santa Cruz, CA Santa Cruz Civic Center
June 1 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
June 2 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
June 4 Salt Lake City, UT In The Venue
June 6 Austin, TX Stubb’s Bar-B-Q
June 7 Houston, TX House of Blues
June 8 Dallas, TX House of Blues
June 11 Denver, CO Red Rocks
June 13 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theatre
June 14 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue
June 15 Columbus, OH LC Pavillion
June 16 Detroit, MI The Fillmore
June 18 Chicago, IL Riviera
June 20 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theatre
August 8 Chicago, IL Lollapalooza