MGMT on Aliens, Drugs and 'Congratulations'

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Was the label like, "Where are the singles?"
Goldwasser: They were kind of like, "You know this is what you did, you get it, you know that it would be a lot easier to do this if you made a traditional album front-loaded with singles, but that's part of why we signed you." I think people have this attitude that something's either pop or it's pretentious art, or it's mainstream or it's indie, there's no middle ground, and I think we’re trying to go somewhere in between that. We feel like it should be taken as an album and not a collection of singles. We don't want to be associated with concept albums and art rock or any of that, it's bullshit to us.
People wonder if this album is a reaction to the success of the first one.
Goldwasser: I don't think it was completely reactionary, like, "Oh, we had these unexpected hits on our last album, so let's make a completely uncommercial album." I don't think it was like that, and I don't think this album's uncommercial. I think our next album could have 10 electro dance songs on it. We're not going to buy into any sort of spin, like we've turned from an electro-pop duo into a psychedelic rock band, because we feel like we always were a psychedelic rock band and we never were an electro-pop duo. It's all labels, anyway.
What did you think about the album leaking?
Goldwasser: I think that in some ways, it's great, and in some ways it's unfortunate. It's really exciting for us to have people excited about the new stuff, but I think that it's too bad that they weren't able to experience the album for the first time with the whole artwork and packaging together, which is the way it's meant to be.
VanWyngarden: I was expecting it to leak, and in a way, it’s good — the anticipation was turning into people thinking it was going to be a shit album, and that every song was going to be like "Flash Delirium" with too much going on and too many ideas. That's really what that song was supposed to be about, is about being delirious and overwhelmed. It's helped, in a way, that people can see it as a whole and get where we're going to.
I still think that there's a lot of people that jumped on it and dismissed it right away as shit. I can understand people not liking it, but we put in so much work into it and we're very proud of it and we feel like it represents who we are musically, and for people to just dismiss it as some shit on one listen is stupid. I was expecting that to happen. I really just try to rely on being confident from talking to people like Kevin Shields [of My Bloody Valentine], people that I really respect musically, and hearing them say that they like our music and they like our new album and the new songs.
What have you thought about some of the reaction, like the weird thing about people saying you were sorry about the album?
Goldwasser: What I was saying was sarcastic, "If you're expecting 'Kids' or 'Time to Pretend' or whatever, sorry, you're not going to get that on this album," and to interpret that as a genuine apology is really stupid. We are absolutely dead serious about music-making, and that's what we want people to understand, that there's no joke in it. We're not intentionally trying to fuck with people, we're actually making this music that we love and we want people to hear it.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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