Before the Grammy nods and the gold-certified debut, MGMT then just young Wesleyan grads adrift in Brooklyn bohéme opened their 2008 breakthrough, Oracular Spectacular, with ''Time to Pretend,'' a brash forecast of Behind the Music-style excess: private islands, supermodel wives, glorious death-by-vomit-asphyxiation end.
The fact that Oracular sold well enough to shift that song from a satire to a possible self-fulfilling prophecy seems to have scared the crap out of them. Core duo Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, who appear almost pathologically uncomfortable with their fame, have reportedly turned down supporting slots with Lady Gaga, U2, and Coldplay, and even wanted to give Congratulations away as a free download. And for all its layered musicality, their sophomore follow-up is strikingly uncommercial. Tracks like ''Song for Dan Treacy'' and ''Brian Eno'' revel in black-lit-basement grooviness while studiously avoiding any obvious pop hook. The falsetto ''Someone's Missing'' cuts out just as its stadium-ready chorus blossoms. And the sprawling instrumental ''Lady Dada's Nightmare'' feels like a Valley of the Dolls fever dream. Undoubtedly, some fans will be left feeling deflated, but this odd little sonic onion ultimately rewards those patient enough to peel the layers. B