Critically acclaimed and widely adored, MGMT was one of the music industry's breakout success stories of the past decade. The Brooklyn psych-pop band comes to the LC for an outdoor show tonight.
Critically acclaimed and widely adored, MGMT was one of the music industry's breakout success stories of the past decade. The Brooklyn psych-pop band's 2008 debut "Oracular Spectacular" boasted three ubiquitous singles - "Time to Pretend," "Kids" and "Electric Feel" - earning them boatloads of money and the clout to make whatever sort of follow-up they pleased.
Unfortunately for MGMT, they seem to be the only ones pleased.
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden hired Spacemen 3's Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember and holed up at a house in Malibu with the other three members of their live band. They emerged with "Congratulations," a Dadaist psych odyssey that feels more like an Of Montreal rarities collection than the work of world-conquering pop stars.
"We were just hunkered down in our own little bubble for a while," said Will Berman, who has drummed for the band on-and-off since 2002, when they were students at Wesleyan University.
Not until the group came up for air did they realize what they'd wrought: "Congratulations" is a "Pinkerton" for a new generation, a sophomore release from a hit-making alt-rock band choked on and spat out by the mass audience they once delighted.
Perhaps, like Weezer's cult favorite emo platter, hindsight will win "Congratulations" its own swarm of devotees. Divorced from expectations, the album is certainly a grower, fraught with layers upon layers of melodic tangents and sonic stimulation.
In the meantime, though, MGMT must deal with scorn - or at least confusion - from a large portion of their audience, especially if they continue to omit hits from their ever-shifting live show. They angered fans by opting not to play "Kids" at Coachella.
"That single was pretty old," Berman said. "I think that it's pretty common knowledge that we have a new album. If you're going to see us play, we're probably going to focus more on the album that we're excited about trying to disseminate rather than something that is basically going to render us an oldies act if we keep playing it over the course of the next few years.
"We don't want to be like Chumbawamba or something. I don't know them for anything but that one song," he said. "I don't want to be that kind of band."
It's unclear if the curveball that is "Congratulations" represents MGMT as free spirits who reject society's script or whether they're simply buying into a different narrative that says real artists subvert expectations. Is this the album MGMT would have made had they not hit it big, or is the "In Utero" effect in play?
Either way, Berman insists MGMT is psyched about "Congratulations."
"I guess we should have felt really anxious about it and been probably dreading the album coming out," Berman said, "but we remain really positive."