MGMT Congratulations [Columbia/Sony]
You can’t say they didn’t warn us. Back in January, MGMT told the NME that they wouldn’t be releasing any singles off their forthcoming album. Said Ben Goldwasseer, “We’d rather people hear the whole album as an album and see what tracks jump out rather than the ones that get played on the radio – if anything gets played on the radio!” The clincher, however was the admission that “there definitely isn’t a ‘Time To Pretend’ or a ‘Kids’ on the album.”
Congratulations is destined to throw off fans that jumped aboard the bandwagon when the mainstream picked up those two aforementioned singles. MGMT were reluctant to become instant stars; it’s a topic they can’t seem to avoid talking about in every interview they’ve done recently. Their second album smacks of self-sabotage, career suicide, whatever, but Goldwasseer and Andrew VanWyngarden insist this sophomore effort is representative of their tastes.
Judging by their tastes, MGMT no longer care to provide those instantly gratifying melodies that earned them Grammy nominations, a Paul McCartney opening slot and numerous video game and CW series appearances. Instead they hired their hero Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember (formerly of drone rock heroes Spacemen, E.A.R. and Spectrum) and lost themselves in their Nuggets box sets, King Crimson and obscure British folk music.
But as disappointing as it is not to hear where they could have taken the fizzy electronically-bent pop of Oracular Spectacular, Congratulations is highly successful in its reinvention.
Finger-pointing for MGMT’s new direction can be made with two songs in particular: “Song For Dan Treacy” and “Brian Eno.” Named after the cult songwriter of the Television Personalities, “Song For Dan Treacy” is too neat and harmonic to be accused of mimicking that band’s sound, but the vivid lyrics and English guitar jangle definitely work as a paean to one of Britain’s most underappreciated and misunderstood folk heroes. “Brian Eno,” on the other hand, is some hard-charging, pulsating glam that wouldn’t sound out of place - barring the lyrics, of course - on Eno’s own Here Come The Warm Jets.
The hero worship doesn’t end there. Their fanaticism is washed all throughout the album. Syd Barrett’s madcap folk is responsible for pseudo first single “Flash Delirium,” a loopy bit of Anglophilia that crescendos into a storm of psychedelic lunacy and features the weathered voice of former Royal Trux maiden Jennifer Herrema. “Siberian Breaks” is definitely self-indulgent as a multi-faceted 12-minute prog epic, but it floats in and out of coherence like a hallucinogen Sunday afternoon picnic or a sober screening of The Monkees’ Head – take your pick.
It gets even loopier though. “Someone’s Missing” is so pompous with its use of falsetto and sitar that it makes Sparks a little more palatable, and then there’s something called “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” which isn’t what you think. A beautiful cinematic mess of an instrumental, it builds to a climax of screaming guitars for the sort of sublime freak-out you’d get from the Flaming Lips.
If Congratulations plays it safe, it’s only at the tail end. The title track wanders off into Bowie’s Space Oddity territory, which may be a predictable to end things but also a fitting finish to an album that is so ostentatious, so ambitious and so honest.
Congratulations may prove to be the most divisive listen of the year, but it’s a brutally honest and bold statement made at a time when most artists can’t make this sort of gamble. That they’ve done this as their “difficult second record” only boosts my respect for them, and heightens anticipation for what will come next for these unlikely rebels.
Despite mixed reactions to the much-talked-about second album Congratulations, MGMT have told the Guardian that it was not done to kill their career. “To anyone that thinks we’ve intentionally committed commercial suicide with this album, it’s far from it,” says Ben Goldwasser. “If we really intended to do that, we’d be really good at it.” Added Andrew VanWyngarden, “It would be awesome. We’d make an album like Royal Trux’s Sweet Sixteen. You know that? With the toilet on the front full of shit and puke? So, you know, please don’t see this as that attempt.” Another mouthful of dessert, another giggle. “Because it would be a sorry attempt at commercial suicide. Really.”
Speaking of suicidal second albums, Toronto’s volatile electro rockers Crystal Castles will release yet another self-titled album on June 8th. Not a whole lot has been revealed other than a pretty awesome shot of the cover and that it was recorded in an Icelandic church, a Canadian cabin, and a Detroit garage.
NXNE has announced the first batch of bands for this June’s festival. Unlike previous years, this year looks amazing! Scheduled to play are Iggy & The Stooges, X, De La Soul, Mudhoney, Les Savy Fav, Japandroids, Cold Cave, Surfer Blood, Wavves, Thee Oh Sees and of course, Sloan. NXNE takes place between June 14th and 20th.
Tokyo Police Club have signed to Toronto’s Dine Alone (City and Colour, Hot Hot Heat) label. The Newmarket-cum-Toronto band will release their second album, Champ, on June 8th.
The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of Jose Gonzalez is the name of a new documentary about the lovely Swedish folkie named, yes, Jose Gonzalez. Here’s a description: “With a combination of video diary, surveillance camera, concert and tour footage as well as animations the filmmakers Mikel Cee Karlsson and Fredrik Egerstrand have followed one of Sweden’s most interesting artists - José Gonzalez.” You can watch the trailer here.
MGMT have told NME.com that they will not release any singles from their new album, Congratulations. Ben Goldwasseer explained, “We’d rather people hear the whole album as an album and see what tracks jump out rather than the ones that get played on the radio – if anything gets played on the radio!”
One-time weekly music bible Melody Maker is set to get an online re-launch. The UK paper folded in 2000 after 74 years, but is set to get a redesign and make public its extensive back catalogue. No date has been given for re-launch.
Luke Steele says he’ll release three albums in 2010: one by The Sleepy Jackson, another by Empire Of The Sun and one by his “punk rock” solo project.
Klaxons are currently finishing up their new album. Producer Ross Robinson (yeah, the guy who basically invented nu-metal) has said that it’s “the most violent British record to date.” Robinson also said it sounds like “coming up for a gasp of air.” Mmm hmm…
And if you happen to be in Toronto on Thursday, Dinosaur Jr. will be performing a free concert at Sonic Boom on Bloor Street at 6:30 pm If you go, please don’t forget your earplugs.
Morrissey ended his show in Liverpool the other night when a water bottle clocked him in the head. The way it bounces off his noggin is actually pretty funny.
Not funny at all was the death of Jerry Fuchs, renowned drummer for !!!, The Juan Maclean and Maserati. Fuchs died early Sunday morning after falling down an elevator shaft at a party in Brooklyn. He will be missed.
Nick Cave is developing his dirty new book, The Death of Bunny Munro, into a TV series. Director John Hillcoat, who adapted Cave’s screenplay in The Proposition, is said to be involved with the project.
If you bought your copy of Blueprint 3 to hear MGMT’s expected collaboration, you may have noticed that they aren’t actually on it. Jay-Z told Gotham Magazine it was because “MGMT turned me down.” Whoa, who turns down Jay-Z?
Finally, if you were planning on seeing Girls in Montreal tonight, I’m afraid they’ve had to cancel their gig. One of the members lost their passport, so they’re waiting on a new one. Tomorrow’s show in Toronto is still scheduled to happen.
Matador has announced the track listing for the forthcoming singles comp by Polaris Music Prize champs F**ked Up. Out January 26th, Couple Tracks will be a double album made up of “many, many hard-to-find uncollected 7-inch and 12-inch tracks.”
Along with Brody Jenner, Perez Hilton and Kelly Osbourne, Animal Collective have posed for the latest PETA campaign - Save the Seals. The indie faves are protesting the cruelty behind Canada’s annual seal slaughter.
Jay Reatard has found a new rhythm section after his bassist and drummer split on him earlier this month. He’s gone and grabbed members of the Cola Freaks to help him with his upcoming European and U.S. tours and those Pixies shows.
MGMT have revealed that their second album will be called Congratulations. The album is produced by Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 and will feature Royal Trux’s Jennifer Herrema on backing vocals. Apparently it has “an overall air of electronic exuberance, quirky instrumental introspection and their trademark soul-searching crescendos of psychedelia.”
Xenomania, the production team behind Kylie Minogue, Annie, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, New Order and today’s Earworm, Mini Viva, among others, are holding open auditions. The “British hit factory” are looking for male and female singers & rappers as well as girl/boy groups between the ages of 15 and 25.