It's stunning to me what some people will regard as "experimental". Skinny Puppy's Last Rights is experimental. William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops is experimental as hell. Christ, I'll even go so far as to say that David Bowie's Low is experimental. Congratulations? Congratulations is not an experimental album by any stretch of the imagination. At most it could be considered "interesting". At least it could be considered extremely similar to MGMT's first album. And despite the negative buzz you might have seen surrounding this album, neither of those are by any means a bad thing.
First, let's get this out of the way. As I eluded to above, there is nothing even vaguely groundbreaking or even odd about this album. The way you'd hear the music press talk about it, you'd expect Congratulations to be a collection of dissonant post-industrial soundscapes. The reality is that this is an album that is incredibly pleasing to the ear, with plenty of catchy hooks and hyper-enthusiastic vocals and keyboards. What can be said is that the tracks do mix their influences and they wear this fact on their sleeves. There's a definite surf rock vibe to the opening track, "It's Working", and as angry as it may have made people who were expecting another "Kids", "Flash Delirium" is a totally approachable dance track. "Brian Eno", a tribute to the titular musician, seems like it could be an anime theme song and the prog influences on "Siberian Breaks", the only track that resembles anything out of the ordinary for an indie-tinged electronica song, are impossible to ignore.
That said, the people who say that there is nothing on Congratulations that you could release as a single are wrong. This is all very standard issue synthpop: I can't imagine a radio DJ recoiling in horror from a single track on this album(except for maybe "Lady Dada's Nightmare", but it's just sort of a crappy filler instrumental anyway). True, it's not very radio friendly compared to Oracular Spectacular, but you'll recall that that was an UNBELIEVABLY radio friendly album. If Congratulations had come out first you'd hear armchair experts the Internet over scream about how OS was MGMT's "sellout" album, and instead you get these very same pedants becoming enraged that there's nothing as screamingly poppy and polished as "Time to Pretend" on their sophomore effort. Astounding.
Of course, I'm reviewing the album, not the reaction to the album. So how is it, in the final analysis? It's pretty good, honestly. There's nothing mind blowing about it but it serves as a perfectly poppy slice of psychedelica for those who like their hazy, drug-induced adventures to be on the dancier side of things. The vocals become as much of an instrument as anything else on Congratulations. Much has been made about the fact that this is an album about how the duo has become uncomfortable with their new found fame, but the lyrics truly don't matter too terribly much. This is one of those albums(and one of those bands, for that matter) that's a lot more about the sound than the meaning, and if you're fine with that then you should have no problems with this release.
Congratulations is an album that is occasionally eccentric but never off-putting, one that's just different enough from its predecessor to avoid comparisons and similar enough to fit in with Oracular Spectacular pretty comfortably when you put your Ipod on shuffle. If you find this at all abrasive or confusing, I'd venture to say that you have a pretty pedestrian idea of what makes music abrasive or confusing, but I honestly don't think that most people will. This is one album where the content spits on the hype, in the best way possible.