Since the day I discovered them some years ago, this has become the band I don’t tire listening to…There was nearly no song in their first album, Oracular Spectacular, that I haven’t kept playing on a standalone basis, except maybe the typically most popular ones, Electric Feel or Kids. Those two I also consider now to be a bit farther from Mgmt’s essence. I found ‘Time to Pretend’, the other success piece of the first album, to be closer to their musical character as well as to their entire view of music and what they wanted to do about it: as short as ‘we’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun’. The music was fun and they also had the eye for and possibly an almost full picture of the current state of the youth and their generation, so why not mirror it a bit through the medium…
In general, fans of the first album seemed a bit frustrated with the second one, Congratulations. Views were mostly based on how it differed from the direction and sound of the first one. This looked a bit puzzling to me, as I; on the contrary haven’t found the second album different than the first in a negative way. Except the hit songs mentioned above I could connect the entire line of music in both albums.
The hits like ‘It’s working’, ‘Flash Delirium’ in the second album are not any far from the sounds in ‘Time to Pretend’ or ‘Of moons, birds and monsters’, ‘Future Reflections’ in the first one. I also resembled the tone of ‘Someone’s missing’ from the first album to ‘I found a whistle’ on Congratulations. Or the taste I get from listening to the 12 minute long epic ‘Siberian breaks’ is fairly similar to what I get from ‘4th dimensional transition’. Especially those two songs are also somehow reminiscent of John Lennon’s solo period to me. Siberian Breaks is a rare masterpiece, in my view, with full of content as well musical finesse making it a song that almost talks to the listener in its very unique way. I simply find the constant unexpected shift of tune throughout the 12 minutes irresistible, and particularly adore the break at the 8.20.
I guess it boiled down to why and what you liked about Mgmt’s first album: if the hits like Electric Feel or Kids appealed the most to you, then you were looking for dancing and easier-to-sing-along music stuff. However, I think that they in fact had more to tell and share than dance tunes, despite what majority or main stream longed for. This is also what I noticed in one of their second album tour concerts in London in 2010: the majority wanted to hear those tunes, while a minority of the audience I was also part of, wanted to hear the new songs. But one cannot expect everyone coming to those concerts to know and like each and every song that is being played. Yet, the difference (what the majority is after) is clear in youtube number of views, too.
One or two hits like Time to Pretend (from Oracular Spectacular) per one or two albums would suffice, in my view. For me the bonus songs of the second album were the ‘Song for Dan Treacy’ and ‘Brian Eno’, which could appeal to fans who looked for more rhythmic tunes. Among the two I definitely find Song for Dan Treacy more captivating.
To me Oracular Spectacular was a great first album, where they succeeded making a link to the crowds, sharing a bit of their view about themselves, about the music, the youth and everything. They made you sing along to their tunes. But once you grasped and liked what they wanted to do with music to start with, then they were actually beginning to talk to you and share on a much more personal level in the second album. This is my interpretation. The second album sounded a bit more private than the first one to me, in continuing to share their internal confusions. Not that I try to attach a meaning to each and every song and try to see if there is a message, because there isn’t. Nevertheless, as a whole I think the second album was a right step towards establishing and deepening their vision.
I don’t like ranking, as favourites can change from time to time. Yet, my so-far maybe most resilient favourite Mgmt song remains as ‘Weekend wars’ (although I put ‘Siberian Breaks’ and ‘4th Dimensional Transition’ in a very very special place, too), where I could get some Rolling Stones taste, too. Funnily enough, they went and mentioned Rolling Stones in their ‘Flash Delirium’ song from the ‘Congratulations’. Maybe in a way to convey how humble they view themselves, their- as well as the music of our times: ‘you’ll be never be as good as Rolling Stones’. This statement actually overlaps with my current view of new bands vs. the older ones. Times have changed so vast in terms of richness of sound and availability of different flavours as well as repetition, it is so much more difficult to make an effect and stand out as the big bands like Rolling Stones once did.
I find so much to say about Mgmt, but I guess the mastery is in keeping it short.
Here is a link to my mostly-listened Mgmt songs…http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF0C694B952C4F80A
Here is the link to the second album on their website (still available for listening in its entirety): http://www.whoismgmt.com/us/congratulations-us