MGMT “Congratulations” Album Cover Artwork

I met the musicians Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser in 2009 when Sonic Boom (AKA Peter Kember) brought them to my studio. MGMT was recording their highly anticipated follow up album to Oracular Spectacular, and Kember was supervising the recording in a house in Malibu. I was invited to hang out a few times, and the last visit I made everybody was, how shall I put this, in a psychedelic mood, so I sat at the dining table and drew funny little sketches; when I split, I left them behind. A few weeks later, I was contacted by Josh Cheuse, the art director at Sony Music in charge of the artwork for the album. Apparently, Andrew had been so impressed by my artistic inclinations that he wanted me to design the cover.

The album was by this time called Congratulations and the concept was that the cover should look like a winning lottery ticket, using “scratch off” ink for part of the image. After a while it became obvious that the idea wasn’t working, so Andrew switched gears and now wanted the image of a surfer about to get wiped out by a wave that looked like a cat. I still couldn’t get it right, so I shitcanned everything I’d done, went out and drank about a gallon of coffee, got back to my studio, and nailed it. It took me about three weeks to finish the painting after I got the OK; everyone was stoked, and the future looked pretty damn good. At this point Sony decided to leak the album cover image since the public was screaming for anything new from MGMT. Once the cover went live, I spent the day reading reviews of it. To my horror, most people thought the cover was a failure; even going so far as to claim that the music, which they could not have possibly heard, was also terrible. Fortunately, all the band members praised the cover and totally backed me up on it. Anyway, once the album was released, the heat was off me and people began bitching about the music!

While painting the cover I was not allowed to hear any of the advance tracks, so I had to listen to Oracular Spectacular while working. Once I did hear the new tracks, I was extremely happy that the image worked so well with them.

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MGMT at the House of Blues

A little more than 24 hours after the Flaming Lips showered the still-damp crowd at Eleanor Tinsley Park with beauty and kindness and confetti, Brooklyn’s MGMT took the stage at the House of Blues. The latter, whose first album, Oracular Spectacular, was produced by longtime Lips collaborator Dave Friedmann, was riding into town following the high of the weekend’s Free Press Summer Fest.

Much has been written about the differences between that 2008 release and 2010’s Congratulations. First there’s the cover art from Houston-raised, Low Brow-movement artist Anthony Ausgang. At first glance it looks like something you’d see on a Trapper Keeper, but beyond the bright colors there’s a darker image of a surfing hedgehog about to be swallowed up by a wave shaped like a cat. The image is in step with MGMT’s intention to make the album a response to its precipitous rise to fame — OS has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide.

Secondly, there are no discernible hits. No radio-ready singles or songs likely to end up in a VW ad. No Time to Pretend. No Kids. In fact, before its release, the band balked at any singles being released. Instead multi-instrumentalists Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden did the only thing they really could by striking out in a new direction and turning their backs on their phenom status.

However, it seems no matter the psyche-rock duo’s intentions, many of their fans would prefer not to move past the hits of Oracular. In fact, it appeared that the vast majority attending the sold-out show paid full admission to hear about four songs: Electric Feel, Weekend Wars and the aforementioned Time to Pretend and Kids.

Performing before a background of white-sheet waves, Goldwasser and VanWyngarden — joined by a tight backing band of bassist Matt Asti, guitarist James Richardson and drummer Will Berman — went to Congratulation’s Flash Delirium for the second song of the set. The song is a wild ride culminating in a frenzy of sound and the rat-a-tat of VanWyngarden’s lyrics: “stab your facebook / sell sell sell / undercooked / overdone / mass adulation not so funny / poisoned honey / pseudo science / silly money / you’re my honey” before coming to a screaming, screeching halt.

They followed with Youth before blasting into Electric Feel, both off Oracular. Electric Feel’s irresistible vibe brought the distracted crowd back to the show, drawing cheers for the first time since the band took the stage. Neither VanWyngarden nor Goldwasser wasted much time chatting up the audience, instead moving quickly into It’s Working and its head-nodding bass line. The stage and players were bathed in kaleidoscopic lights, which were a nice metaphor for music dripping with varied styles and influences.

Later in the show, after the haunting I Found a Whistle, VanWyngarden did talk to the crowd, explaining, “We don’t jump around like some of those young bands. … This is what we do.” It was as if the singer could sense apathy in the audience (maybe I was just standing in a bad spot) and felt the need to address it.

Sandwiched between crowd-pleasers Weekend Wars and Time to Pretend (Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew) was the the ambitious 12-minute beauty Siberian Breaks, with its many twists and turns. Drummer Berman recently told the Chronicle’s Andrew Dansby that the song is “probably the toughest (to play live) with a lot of jarring transitions. (Pauses and laughs.) The other night I saw a girl in the front row, she had a permanent yawn on her face through the entire song. I almost felt bad for her.”

He and his bandmates may have seen a few more “permanent yawns” in this particular House of Blues audience Monday night.

But with the second song of their encore, MGMT gave the crowd what it demanded, and it responded by erupting into a dancing mass after the first few synthesized notes of Kids. Goldwasser came out from behind the keyboards and VanWyngarden put down his guitar and the two performed the song as the other members of the band became back-up dancers. Everyone on stage seemed to be having a great time, which shows that no matter the direction the band has decided to go with its new material, its members enjoy sharing where they’ve been with their fans.

The members of MGMT might not be able to command attention with the laser-like precision of Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips, but give them time; they are still young. And for those still riding the wave of Summer Fest good will like a video-game hedgehog, they made it three days of exciting shows in Houston.

MGMT Channels Mid-90s Sega Game for New Album!! By Perez Hilton

The indie rock band MGMT has just released the cover of their upcoming sophomore album, Congratulations, and it’s pretty…interesting? Is that the word?

Maybe they were on a burn ride with Mush Mush when they all came up with the Sonic the Hedgehog/Felix the Cat aesthetic TOGETHER!!

Regardless, we’re looking forward to the April 13th release!!

Hopefully the artwork does not reflect the quality of their music!

What do U think?? Do U like their album cover?

ROBOTA: the artwork sucks! reminds me of needlepoint in the 80’s. i heard the artist is impotent from all the blow he did.

By Stephen Carlick
Published Apr 14, 2010

MGMT released their sophomore album, Congratulations, yesterday (April 14). But just because it’s officially out there for public consumption, doesn’t mean we’re clear on that wacky, Anthony Ausgang-designed album cover.

In a recent interview with Exclaim!, the band, who picked up surfing while recording in Malibu, opened up about their choice to have what we called “Sonic the Hedgehog lost in some Chester Cheetah nightmare” adorn their record sleeve.

“It just kind of felt right, because there are references to surfing on the album, and some of the songs have a surf rock influence,” MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden said. “For whatever reason, I’m still dreaming about surfing all the time, and waves, and I don’t really know if there’s symbolism there, but I think it’s pretty easy to interpret our album cover as feeling a little overwhelmed by this kind of beast that we created that we hadn’t really intended to create. We feel like the cat on the surfboard sometimes: about to be swallowed up by it.”

He continued, “I guess the most obvious interpretation of the cover is the phrase ‘wave of success’ [laughs]. It wasn’t that strategic of a cover, but I think the surfing metaphor does work well with how we feel about things.”

To express it as an equation: Overwhelming fame + surfing + Anthony Ausgang = Congratulations album art.

MGMT Unveil Face-Melting “Congratulations” Cover Art
By Oswald Hobbes

We like MGMT at Assault. And we’re eagerly anticipating their new album, Congratulations. It drops April 13th on Columbia Records and will probably incite fevered spaz-dancing in our headquarters until we get tired and sweaty (or run out of designer drugs). They released a tracklist last week, but now we have something even better: the cover art. And it is amazing – the kind of thing you can stare at for hours, provided you have the proper chemical accompaniment.

I mean, wow – just look at that thing! Artwork is courtesy of Anthony Ausgang, a guy who probably knows his way around the fun kind of mushrooms. This has to tie with Yeasayer’s Odd Blood cover as strangest of the year (so far).

What’s MGMT Telling Us With Their New Album Cover?

Last week, MGMT’s Andrew Vanwyngarden told Spin all about the band’s sophomore album, Congratulations, out April 13, saying: “It’s definitely going to shock people. We dropped any sort of irony that was on the first record, and Congratulations feels true to who we really are.” We take that to mean MGMT is also totally serious about the mind-numbing cover, which you see above — this, too, must feel true to who they really are. So we ask: Is the duo represented here by the cute multi-eyed creature attempting to surf its way out of harm? The dead-eyed wave-wolf monster about to chomp down? Or, perhaps, the yellow surfboard itself? Also, are we going to need peyote to fully enjoy Congratulations?

“Well, people that are stupid don’t understand the cover, but cool, smart people get how awesome it is.”

Andrew VanWyngarden

MGMT Unveil “Lowbrow” Cover For Upcoming Album Congratulations
by Bill Lamb

Obviously a cover doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the music that will be contained inside an album. However, it can set a tone and generate anticipation for what is to come. With that said, the new MGMT album cover for the album Congratulations, due in stores April 13, 2010, is piquing my interest. MGMT were nominees this year for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards. They also received a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for the song “Kids.” A remix of their song “Electric Feel” won the Grammy for Best Non-Classical Remixed Recording. It looks like 2010 could very well be the year MGMT explode into the pop mainstream around the world.

For the cover of Congratulations the duo decided to turn to artist Anthony Ausgang. He is celebrated as a pioneer of the art movement referred to as Lowbrow. It is characterized by cartoony depictions of nostalgic, working class, and counter-cultural imagery. Ausgang hooked up with MGMT while they were recording Congratulations. According to a recent interview, he left drawings around for the duo to check out and his book Vacation From Reality. MGMT liked the look of Ausgang’s work. They gave him some pointers for what they wanted on the album cover then let him execute it in his own style. MGMT have spoken publicly about preferring Congratulations to be released without singles preferring fans to listen to the album as a whole.

Anthony Ausgang’s work for MGMT shows bond between art, music
by Andrew Dansby

Even before MGMT’s Congratulations was released in April the album was drawing buzz, good and bad, for leaked songs and its colorful artwork.

The cover looks like something from a video game, with a hedgehog-like creature on a surfboard about to be swallowed by a wave shaped like a cat. It captured the sense of threat and folly that engulfed the art-pop band after success came quickly two years ago.

The image was created by Anthony Ausgang, a Houston-raised artist who is celebrated in what has been tagged as the Low Brow movement.

MGMT and Ausgang were introduced by musician Sonic Boom, the album’s producer. Though separated by a generation, the artist and the band share a colorful sensibility, touched with surreal humor.

Ausgang sent a few pieces of existing art to the band but none seemed to fit, so he created an original piece informed, in part, by MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden’s affinity for surfing.

“Fortunately, it didn’t degenerate into a sort of mutual admiration society,” he says. “We got to know each other on a personal level, and it was a great thing. I felt honored to do it. The various pains on this weren’t bad at all. Because I will turn down work if I can tell it’s going to be a pain in the (butt).”

Ausgang speaks admiringly of the band’s new video for Flash Delirium, which he says includes choreography lifted from the 1973 film The Wicker Man.

“It’s interesting to me that the kids these days are more tolerant of the art and culture of previous generations,” Ausgang says. “Whereas I didn’t give a (expletive) about what people did before me.”

Ausgang was born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago but moved to Spring Branch when he was a year old. As a child, he was entranced by hot-rod culture, which informs much of his work today. He attended the University of Texas before heading in 1980 to California, where he’s worked since. There he met Robert Williams, an artist whose psychedelic-influenced work is considered pioneering in an underground movement that became known as Low Brow, a vibrant and far-flung style that represented numerous subcultures. He points out that the rise of graffiti art has turned the Low Brown term into more of a generational indicator.

But both forms have enjoyed legitimacy. Ausgang points to the celebration of Shepard Fairey, whose Andre the Giant stickers earned him renown before his Barack Obama Hope image made him a star.

“Shep discovered a whole new media in a way, putting stickers on lampposts,” Ausgang says. “It was an alternative information network. It’s kind of stupid no one realized its potential before, except for lunatics posting ‘Jesus Is Coming’ posters. Lunatics seem to find these things before artists do.”

Ausgang was early to adapt to doing computer-generated art, using a Macintosh Quadra — “They won’t even take those in thrift stores anymore,” he says — to make art as early as 1995.

The medium was met with resistance. But, Ausgang says, “Personally, I think computer graphics programs are as important an innovation in art as oil paint. … I had friends ask, ‘What the (expletive) are you doing? You’re a painter.”

Ausgang still paints. In fact his website ( includes a page where one can order a customized painting based on some of his recurring themes: “hot rods, drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll, gunplay and all manner of scandalous anarchy.”

“A tenet of Low Brow art is accessibility,” Ausgang says. “It’s not as elitist as the fine arts.”

There’s little that’s snooty about Ausgang’s piece for MGMT’s album, with its bright pinks and blues. “That’s what I try to do,” Ausgang says, “use bright colors and get across ideas that are slightly dark.

MGMT’s drummer talks about touring behind Congratulations
by Andrew Dansby

Two years ago Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden released Oracular Spectacular as MGMT. The album was something of a surprise hit behind two unavoidable singles. With the new Congratulations the two multi-instrumentalists brought their touring band — James Richardson, Matt Asti and Will Berman — in on the recording process, with each member playing a rash of guitars and keys and basses and percussion.

Congratulations was hit with bad buzz — much of it about what was deemed as uncommercial content — before it was even released. Admittedly the album is missing the sort of sugary singles that end up in movie trailers, but Congratulations is the better recording. There are big melodies and lushly orchestrated instrumentation along with lyrics full of confusion and befuddlement that suggest two guys trying to make sense of their success. Berman, who handles drums for the band on tour, answered a few questions about the album and tour. The band makes a stop in Houston to play the House of Blues Monday night.

Q: It seems like there are dozens of instruments layered on Congratulations. Has it been difficult to transfer that to the live show?
A: Yeah, we’re still working out which parts are the most important to play live. There’s lot of stuff on album we can’t possibly reproduce at live show. It’s actually mostly up to Ben and James, who handle all keyboard stuff, to figure out how to spread all those parts across their four hands.

Q: Was it difficult to get into a recording process with Andrew and Ben since they made the first record on their own?
A: No, it went really well. It was kind of like whoever came up with an idea on whatever instrument got to work on it. Everybody was free to lay down what was going through their heads. Andrew and Ben had written these skeletonized versions of the songs, and once me, Matt and James came into the studio, that was the fun part. Everybody felt free to do whatever to dress it up.

Q: Is Siberian Breaks in the set? It’s my favorite on the record, but it seems like it would be tough to pull off.
A: We’re doing it. That is the most fun song to play for me. But it’s also probably the toughest with a lot of jarring transitions. (Pauses and laughs.) The other night I saw a girl in the front row, she had a permanent yawn on her face through the entire song. I almost felt bad for her.

Q: Was it frustrating to have the album judged so harshly before it was even released?
A: Yeah, it’s funny, even before the album leaked, we’d just released the album cover art and people were (ticked) off about that alone (laughs), calling it the worst atrocity of an album cover ever. Even before the music people were ready to jump on it. It grew into this crazy critical beat-down. But as far as the album reviews and stuff like that, we’re trying not to let it get to us. It’s not something we have any control over.

MGMT “Congratulations”
by Travis Keller

Wow these dudes really fucking BLEW IT HARD! I’m not even a fan and I know these guys screwed the pooch. People that liked their sugary sweet debut album have to be bummed on what’s happening here on “Congratulations”. I’m not really sure what this “new direction” is that MGMT are going for here, but this record smells to me like a desperate attempt at trying to be something this band isn’t. Not to mention something no one wants to hear. Nuked!

When the first MGMT record came out, I fought it hard… I didn’t wanna like it. But after hearing it everywhere from my neighborhood bar to Vons supermarket, I caved in and admitted that even though it wasn’t my thing it was very well done. I mean I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can write songs that people can’t get outta their heads, that’s a rarely well done art-form. The songs on MGMT’s first record are so well constructed that I witnessed several friends not even notice their kids were singing along about shooting heroin and fucking models. Again not my thing but I do admire these two dorks who went from obscure hippy virgins in a band to sleeping in a different models’ beds every night lotto winning rock stars. Impressive to say the least.

As a reacting to their second record, “Congratulations”, being leaked to the big bad internet…. you can now stream it in it’s entirety on MGMT’s website @ You probably won’t believe me but I actually listened to the entire thing. And I can safely say that this record CAN be judged by it’s cover. The audio part of this record sucks as hard, if not harder than the retarded image these losers picked to be their cover art. It’s unmemorable, it’s uncomfortable and this is gonna sound harsh… but I just don’t wanna hear this dork sing “I Found A Whistle” over some slow tempo pansy-ass keyboards sounds, sorry! Well not really, cuz I’m pretty sure no one wants to hear these homeboys do this either, including the hardest of the hardcore MGMT fans. Am I wrong?

These guys blew it by not sticking with somewhat of the same sound/formula as their first record. The first red flag for me that this record was going to be a hot steamy turd was when I heard they have gotten Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 to produced it. Great idea getting the dude from Spacemen 3 that tours only with a Casio keyboard and a delay pedal. Wouldn’t wanna get the dude who wrote all the rad songs in Spacemen 3 and went on to make a stack of killer albums under the moniker of Spiritualized including “Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating In Space” which is considered one of the best records of the 90s.

You’re trying a little to hard here MGMT… and it’s really boring. If you guys wanted to switch things up and shock people you should have picked up some guitars and hired Mark Arm from Mudhoney to produce it. Now that might have been interesting. Oh well, you’re still right from that first record so I don’t feel too bad for you.


Electro-pop group MGMT is going back in time with an early-nineties themed cover for their new album “Congratulations,” designed by Anthony Ausgang. We’re digging the Sonic the Hedgehogesque vibe, so be sure to get your own copy of the album on April 13th.

We can’t explain what goes on in MGMT’s new surreal music video for the track “Flash Delirium.” A poodle eating something that is certainly not Kibbles N’ Bits, a crew of ventriloquist dummies and an old lady playing a recorder make cameos throughout the video, but we can’t say it isn’t entertaining. And, well, we expected the unexpected from a band that made a ’90s-themed surfing cartoon cat their cover art.

Surf’s Up! MGMT Reveal The Album Cover Art For ‘Congratulations’
by Robbie Daw

MGMT member Andrew Vanwyngarden wasn’t kidding last week when he said the duo’s new album is “definitely going to shock people.” While the cover of their debut Oracular Spectacular was hardly a masterpiece, the just-revealed artwork for sophomore album Congratulations (see it after the jump) is conjuring up memories of the days when we lugged around our, like, totally rad Trapper Keeper in fourth grade.

MGMT Congratulations album art coverWoo-o-o-o-ooah—cowabunga, dude!

The cover was designed by Anthony Ausgang. “There’s a surfing thread throughout the record,” Vanwyngarden told Spin last week. “When you’re surfing, there’s a specific break you’re paddling to. And when the waves are really good you say, ‘It’s working.’ The song [“It’s Working”] kind of has a surf-y vibe. It’s like surfing on ecstasy!”

Well, here’s our prediction: MGMT’s Congratulations is going to catch a gnarly wave and surf straight onto our next Worst Album Cover Art list at the end of the year. Bravo, boys!

Full MGMT Album Out x Cover Art by Anthony Ausgang

MGMT have today unveiled the entire album for their new release, Congratulations. The album cover artwork — courtesy of ‘lowbrow’ artist Anthony Ausgang – is pretty awesome in and of itself.

The new album is everything we’d expect from the psychedelic-rock duo, but a bit more toned down. “In a weird way, it’s like a soul record,” MGMT’s singer/guitarist Andrew Vanwyngarden states.

The musician pair helped design the theme for the album cover by Anthony Ausgang and they weren’t kidding about the influence psychedelic drugs and surfing had on the band’s second record, which is reflected in the cover art.

“Lyrically, it’s about doing drugs,” Vanwyngarden admits in an interview with Spin. “I didn’t realize it until now, but it’s kind of funny, because the first song on our first album was Time to Pretend, which was about the imagined rock star scenario. So, [the song] It’s Working is like, “Yeah, we went out there and we did a lot of drugs and it’s not that great.” The song is mostly about Ecstasy.

“There’s also a surfing thread throughout the record. When you’re surfing, there’s a specific break you’re paddling to. And when the waves are really good you say, ‘It’s working.’ The song kind of has a surf-y vibe. It’s like surfing on ecstasy. Which is what the Time to Pretend video is like. Actually, the video is more like surfing on acid.”

MGMT: Congratulations
By Tessa Stuart

The cover of Congratulations, MGMT’s sophomore album (out April 13), depicts a two-headed cartoon cat on a surfboard — one head looking forward, the other looking back — on the verge of being eaten by the wave it’s surfing. And that pretty much sums it up.

Like the cover, the album itself is a piece of psychedelia, half-teasing, half-earnest, and utterly trippy. It begins with “It’s Working,” a piece of up-tempo surf-rock, with the chanting refrain, “It’s working in your blood.” The song is hyperactive — it bounces along, building to a crescendo, stops dead and crashes down, before picking up again at an even more frenzied pace. “It’s Working” sets a tone for the rest of the album, a schizophrenic nine-song joy-ride, among which listeners will find the raucous Bowie-Beatles blend “Flash Delirium,” twelve space-and-time-sprawling minutes called “Siberian Breaks,” an instrumental (“Lady Dada’s Nightmare”) and the gorgeous title track.

Since it leaked a few weeks ago, the majority of what has been said about the album is about what it is not — quite simply, another Oracular Spectacular, the 2007 album that made the band famous with catchy hits like “Kids” and “Time to Pretend.”

Critics, egged on in part by comments made by the Brooklyn-based duo (Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden), have fretted over the commercial viability of the album. Peter Kember, who helped produced it, has said, “Nobody really knows how the album is going to be received.” The band’s co-manager Mark Kates has voiced a similar sentiment, “Every indication we’re getting is that people really want it… that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it, or that they’re going to buy it, or that it will sell more or less than the last record.”

VanWyngarden has said of Congratulations, “The people responsible for making money hoped that we’d record another ‘Time to Pretend’…but everyone close to us knew we weren’t going to do that.” The video for “Flash Delirium” eludes to a struggle over creative control: half-way through, Ben rips a bandage from his throat, revealing a gaping hole that appears to sing for a moment, before two suits rush forward to wrestle a wriggling eel from the wound. The eel is taken and forcibly deposited in a giant contraption that appears to have some transformative capacity… I’m not making this up! See for yourself…

It’s true, Congratulations is different than Oracular. But that is what is good about it. At this point, most of us have heard “Kids” so many times — in heavy radio-rotation, on Gossip Girl, in ads for French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party — that the high-pitched opening bars, and overlaid children’s squeals, have become grating. That includes MGMT themselves, “If we tried to re-create our last album and someone didn’t like it, I think it would have been really difficult to look them in the eye and tell them we really believed in the album… But now, if someone tells us that it sucks, we don’t give a shit.” Goldwasser said in an interview

Congratulations doesn’t suck — it is affecting and intricate, and sometimes subtle, and sometimes dense, almost inscrutable, and a pleasure all the way through, over and over again. Whether the album proves to be a commercial success has yet to be seen, but it doesn’t seem as though that is even the goal this time around.

The success that MGMT mocked in “Time to Pretend” (singing, “Lets make some music, make some money, find some models for wives.”) is treated as a double-edged sword on Congratulations — it is both the wave they are riding, and the one that threatens to consume them. Nowhere is this ambivalence more apparent than on the final and title track of the album, on which VanWyngarden sings, “I’ve got someone to make reports/ That tell me how my money’s spent/ To book my stays and draw my blinds/ So I can’t see what’s really there/ And all I need’s a great big congratulations.”

Wipe Out
By Austin L. Ray

Congratulations, MGMT, you have made a truly ridiculous record! (They had to live up to that album cover somehow, right?) Reader, you know how groups like The Flaming Lips and Of Montreal—truly great bands with genuine, experimental talent—can, when left to their own devices, go a bit too far? MGMT is like some nightmarish amalgam of those bands’ bottom-barrel ideas set to wanky synths, sometimes for up to 12 minutes (!!!) at a time. The interminable mess in question, “Siberian Breaks,” is a nadir that band member Andrew VanWyngarden (even his name is excessive) told Spin is about “surfing in the Arctic Circle.” That’s what these guys write about: surfing in the Arctic Circle. The very next track is titled “Brian Eno.” Pro-tip, dudes: His Holiness Eno’s name is off limits, especially when you write a song that evokes it in a way that is, at best, an embarrassing novelty. Who could possibly take this album seriously?

MGMT Reveals ‘Congratulations’ Cover Art
By Manan Desai

The members of MGMT unveiled the artwork for their forthcoming sophomore release, Congratulations. Equal parts Tex Avery and late-’80s kitsch, the album cover was designed by pioneering lowbrow artist Anthony Ausgang, whose resume includes artwork for the Boredoms, the Warlocks, Apollo 440, and David Lee Roth. (Yeah, that one.) In an interview with Boing Boing, Ausgang explains that former Spacemen 3 member and Congratulations producer Pete Kember brokered the introduction to the Brooklyn-based duo, who’d apparently been recording the album between breaks of surfing in Malibu. The album is slated to drop April 13 on Sony/Columbia. No word yet on whether the cover reveals a magic image if you squint really hard.

MGMT: ‘Congratulations’ Cover Art

MGMT reveals the cover art for their admittedly single-less (read: good song-less) new album Congratulations due April 13th on Columbia. It was designed by the band and artist Anthony Ausgang, which fails to make it any less terrible.

The Terrible Cover of MGMT’s New Album
By Leor Galil

Congratulations to MGMT. The Brooklyn “indie” act just released the cover for their sophomore LP, Congratulations, and it may be the worst album artwork I’ve seen all year.

All other bands out there, take notice. MGMT has thrown down the gauntlet for atrocious cover craft, and it is quite the challenge.

True, I’m not an MGMT fan. But, you’ve got to be unabashedly in love with the band to think Anthony Ausgang’s piece for the duo’s new album is “good.” But, to each his/her own… or something.

MGMT: Congratulations (Columbia/Sony)
by Sean Bottai

Everything about MGMT’s second album is counterintuitive. The album art is weird, a cross between rejected cover art for an early-’90s Sega Genesis game and a DayGlo surfing poster from a head shop. Stylistically, it’s a retrospective record whose fealty lies with ’60s California pop, classic surf music and late-period Beatles.

Oracular Spectacular is one of the past decade’s best and most important albums. Part of what’s so charming about MGMT is how hard it is to peg them. If that first album belongs to a genre at all, let’s call it “electro-referential,” an au courant mode in which a marzipan coating of club beats and retro synths is filigreed over a vast array of styles, from psychedelia to folk to disco to lounge.

Congratulations opens with “It’s Working,” partly Brill Building girl-pop, partly the shoegaze fuzz of, say, Lush. There’s a thrumming post-punk bass, tinny harpsichord and, I’d swear, a flute. Next comes “Song for Dan Treacy,” an ode to the Television Personalities frontman that’s all ’60s mod, channeling teensploitation movies as much as the late ’70s arty sass of the Personalities.

From there, we’re off, as MGMT almost entirely avoids their debut’s clubby enthusiasm, instead narrating a wistful psych-pop walking tour that’s more synthesis than synth-pop. They’re wearing their influences on their sleeves, with songs about Treacy, electronica pioneer Brian Eno and even—either sarcastically or admiringly, or both—Lady Gaga (or a bizarro version of her, called Lady Dada).

Official Cover Art for MGMT’s ‘Congratulations’ Album

MGMT choose to go colorful and comical for the artwork which will be featured on the front page of their upcoming album “Congratulations”. Coming out via RollingStone, the artwork sees a cartoon character of two-headed orange chimpanzee riding on an icy wave.

Aimed to follow up their 2007 effort “Oracular Spectacular”, this new release is scheduled to hit the market across U.S. on April 13. In an interview with NME, the duo said they won’t release any singles from the album.

“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,” Ben Goldwasseer told the publication. “We’ve been talking about ways to make sure people hear the album as an album in order and not just figure out what are the best three tracks, download those and not listen to the rest of it.”

MGMT Reveals Congratulations Album Art, Confirming that Surfing Warps Your Mind
By Stelios Phili

Congratulations, MGMT, your album art is Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog gorging on a radioactive kitty. The Anthony Ausgang designed cover for the Brooklyn duo’s upcoming release has been unveiled, verifying that the conscious choice to rebrand one’s group around beaches and its assorted aquatic paraphernalia is a bad idea. As Andrew VanWyngarden foreshadowed in a chat with Spin, ” . . . about a year ago, when we were recording Congratulations in Malibu, I started surfing. It’s definitely a theme. There’s one song called ‘Siberian Breaks’ and it’s about 12 minutes long. The general theme is about surfing in the Arctic Circle by Russia.” That and Juxtapoz, circa 1997, apparently. This record is reputed to be terrible, for what it’s worth.

Packaging Review: MGMT – Congratulations
By Brent Koepp

Just like the recent Dr. Dog packaging, MGMT opted for a fold out poster that has the lyrics on one side, and a picture on the other. Unlike Dr. Dog, the fold out poster doesn’t have nice art. Instead, it’s a poorly photoshopped picture of the entire band doing various things, all on blue paper. The picture itself isn’t very appealing, and neither is the color. Their decision for the art inside the packaging is a bit bizarre, as none of it reflects the ridiculous cartoon art on the front. Thematically, the packaging is all over the place, and it comes across as jarring. Quantity wise, there isn’t much here. The packaging is flimsy, and the only thing you get is the fold out poster – which has art that I can’t see anyone enjoying.

Note: Unfortunately, none of the major chains had the limited edition with the scratch off album art. We went to four stores looking for it, and it seems like only Amazon, Wal Mart & have them for sale. Altho we couldn’t find any copies.

Verdict: I can’t recommend this to most people. If you are a big MGMT fan, you might be disappointed. Then again, Oracular also didn’t have the greatest packaging, so maybe most (at this point) aren’t expecting an incredible package.

MGMT debuts new album art on Boing Boing, shafts music magazines
by the ALT REPORT Robot

In one of the most interesting developments of 2k10, MGMT decided to ‘debut’ their album art on boingboing, one of the largest generalist blogs in the world. As opposed to ‘debuting’ the album art on a mainstream music site such as SPIN, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, or Pitchfork, their strategy was to reach out to a massive amount of new fans. It will be interesting to see how hard the Sony marketing machine pushes MGMT for their new album Congratulations. Most likely, we will see them packaged as a Killers-type band.

Some are theorizing that Sony paid boingboing to feature it on their site:

The Boing Boing debut was disguised as a meaningful interview with the artist Anthony Ausgang in which he explained his ‘concept’ behind zany cartoon doodles.

How did you get hooked up with MGMT?

I met Andrew and Ben from MGMT through the experimental musician Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, for whom I had done album cover art in the past. MGMT was recording “Congratulations” at a mansion in Malibu so I went there a couple of times to hang out and watch the process unfold. Not being a musician I was occasionally left to my own devices so I would sit around and draw on pieces of paper then leave them there when I went home. I got along well with the band and gave them copies of my book, Vacation From Reality. Later, Josh Cheuse, the art director from Sony, contacted me once the recording was finished. The most important thing was that MGMT wanted the “look” of my style of painting and gave me only a few points that I had to hit. Naturally the process took some time but they were always cool with the criticisms. A lot of people who commission a painting only know what they don’t want; fortunately MGMT knew what they wanted and let me do it my way.

We cannot confirm that they did drugs together and formed some sort of deep bond.

Will the album be ‘critically accepted’ or will it become music sites’ opportunity to ‘pan’ one band that is trying to go too mainstream in order to send the message not to abandon them? We can assume that music websites will grow bitter since they will be ’shafted’ for larger outlets as the album release process/meme release cycle evolves.

Was KIDS the #1 song of the 2k0s? Did this album art launch ’succeed’ in reaching the mainstream? Will indie / alt / mindie music sites be neglected in the future as their biggest memes will be debuted at places like Perez Hilton, Gawker, and the Huffington Post? Will MGMT’s album be more commercially successful than Vampire Weekend’s? Is MGMT the power house band of 2k10? Will ‘Congratulations’ be a terrible album? Are album art blurbs the most ‘low level’ blurbs in the music blogosphere?

MGMT Dish On Meaning Behind Congratulations’ Album Cover
By Stephen Carlick

MGMT released their sophomore album, Congratulations, yesterday (April 14). But just because it’s officially out there for public consumption, doesn’t mean we’re clear on that wacky, Anthony Ausgang-designed album cover.

In a recent interview with Exclaim!, the band, who picked up surfing while recording in Malibu, opened up about their choice to have what we called “Sonic the Hedgehog lost in some Chester Cheetah nightmare” adorn their record sleeve.

“It just kind of felt right, because there are references to surfing on the album, and some of the songs have a surf rock influence,” MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden said. “For whatever reason, I’m still dreaming about surfing all the time, and waves, and I don’t really know if there’s symbolism there, but I think it’s pretty easy to interpret our album cover as feeling a little overwhelmed by this kind of beast that we created that we hadn’t really intended to create. We feel like the cat on the surfboard sometimes: about to be swallowed up by it.”

He continued, “I guess the most obvious interpretation of the cover is the phrase ‘wave of success’ [laughs]. It wasn’t that strategic of a cover, but I think the surfing metaphor does work well with how we feel about things.”

To express it as an equation: Overwhelming fame + surfing + Anthony Ausgang = Congratulations album art.

MGMT Reveal Eye-Popping “Congratulations” Cover Art
By Daniel Kreps

The purple-and-pink checkboard background, the flood of turquoise and the two-headed chimpanzee surfing out of the mouth of an icy wave shaped like a Sonic the Hedgehog character: The above image couldn’t be anything else but the cover of the next MGMT album, Congratulations. If the music on the album is half as ostentatious as its ’80s-tinged cover, we’re all in for a memorable second album from Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. We still haven’t determined whether we love or hate the image, but there’s no denying it’s as unique as MGMT themselves.

The neon nightmare was created by the artist Anthony Ausgang, whose Website is filled with more canvas filled with deranged felines that look like Scratchy from “Itchy and Scratchy” and MC Skat Kat navigating through fluorescent, Dali-inspired landscapes. Fans of the Japanese noise rock band Boredoms might recognize Ausgang’s work from their Rebore series. To take a retina-burning odyssey through Ausgang’s collection, check out Ausgang’s Exit Studios.

MGMT’s much anticipated second album Congratulations, the follow-up to Oracular Spectacular, is due out April 13th. The duo has claimed they won’t release any singles from the album, but we’ll see if they stick to those guns as we inch toward their release date.

By Lisa Derrick

Lowbrow art-which embraces and celebrates hot rod, surf and cartoon iconography so uniquely Southern Californian-hit the public full force when Robert Williams’ pop Bosch painting Appetite for Destruction was slated to be the cover art for the eponymous Guns N’ Roses album. Hue and cries, strum und drang exploded from concerned feminists and parents over the artwork’s themes of sex, drugs and decadence. Condemned as corrupt art-shades of Weimar Republic-the painting became the inner sleeve lining.

The term “Lowbrow”-meant as a commentary on the more idealistic, romanticized Highbrow art movements–comes from the title of Williams’ first book The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams. While Williams never meant for the term to define or crystallize a burgeoning movement, it stuck as a handy term to explain the emerging art of Koop, The Pizz, Raymond Pettibone, Shag, Mark Ryden, Anthony Ausgang and others.

Over the past decades Lowbrow has morphed-or split depending on the school of thought-into Pop Surrealism. Popular iconography transposes into multi-layered symbols which are at once easily accessible yet fraught with layers of meaning that hinge on the individual’s ability to respond, react and parse. Or not.

There a fascination with the underground river of America culture, dark obsessions and childhood pleasures, combining these with bold verve and at time ironic commentary. In a complex and sardonic twist Lowbrow art has become very collectible and is now considered high art, despite its “low” themes.

Anthony Ausgang, whose vibrant, playful cartoon cats inhabit a universe of warping walls, often facing impending disaster, surfs now to the top of mainstream recognition with his album cover art for the Grammy award winning, multi-platinum band MGMT’s sophomore release Congratulations. Featuring a two headed cartoony creature frantically escaping a wave that takes the form of giant, oddly melancholy fanged feline, the cover-perhaps a commentary on fame-caused some strong reactions from fans. (It was released exclusively to BoingBoing before music media got a look-a very populist statement). Sample comments for websites include:

“F*ck this nu-primitive/half-ironic-80s/hipster/american apparel/adam ant bullsh*t. Let’s try a little sincerity for God’s sake.”

“I remember back in the day when it was cool to hate things that were popular. But then hating popular things became too popular to do that. So I hate it.”

“I’m not too impressed with this album cover. I have a feeling their new record is going to suck.”

“It probably grows on you like everything else MGMT makes. Unexpected, but that was just what I was expecting. I bet it fits the album or they probably drew it on an acid trip. They are the best new band. There new live songs that I’ve heard sound really good.”

Mapplethorpe photographed Patti Smith for Horses, Warhol famously created the Velvet Underground’s banana, so the crossover of art and music is nothing new. But that this cover is causing fans such complex distress, perhaps worrying them that their beloved musicians have changed direction shows the power of an image to affect perception. Which is should always be art’s end, and certainly what Lowbrow and Pop Surrealism have achieved over the past three decades.