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The Modern Epic of MGMT's Siberian Breaks--An Abridged Explanation for an Unabridged Song

This track is easily my favorite song of the last six months. I know MGMT is a very polarizing band, Congratulations is a very polarizing album, and "Siberian Breaks" is a ridiculously demanding song to undertake in this, the ADD/I-berry/twitter instant stimulation generation, but for me, that's what sets it apart. It seems that a great deal of thought and inspiration went into the construction of what I would describe as a modern masterpiece (even if I'm the only one). This is a headphones kinda tune, demanding full diotic attention. The song hits on both poles of psychedelia, oscillating between catharsis and disorientation with far-out vocal effects being the only constant (think Floyd's Atom Heart Mother condensed into one 12 minute 10 second song).

I guess these guys are about my age, and therefore the thematic quarter-life search for real fulfillment coupled with a well-cultivated sense of detachment from the proverbial next step (whatever that may be for our generation) serve as a familiar, albeit strange, lyrical agenda for the song. Such a feeling expressed in the lyrics can probably only be fully embraced by a small demographic. Thus, the song/album's unpopularity is easily understood (but what a shame--currently #166 on the Billboard 200). After all, our unidentifiable generation did collectively experience some pretty f*cked up formative years as teenagers/college students/post-college wanderers of the eventful 2000's.

This has turned into a long-winded rant and most people will stop reading if they haven't already before reaching the end. Fitting write-up for this song. I hope this inspires someone to check out the tune, give it a full 12 minutes and 10 seconds, and ride the breaks to wherever they may take you. This is psychedelic pop music at it's finest. Aural perfection.

YouTubeage to listen:

**It is important to note that I did not write the content below. This was culled from the comments section of (LINK), so whoever you are mystery man/woman/alien who wrote this, my applause go out to you for taking the time to dissect such a beautifully constructed and thought-provoking (heady?) song.

Song Review from

This is a brilliant song and is the 'Tour de force' of Congratulations. Because MGMT worked very hard to make this a "concept album" it echoes many themes found in other tracks. It is ultimately about the ebb and flow of the creative process and the cold side of commercial success. Hence, surfing in Siberia is a very apt metaphor.

The mood of the music and the shifting tempo are as telling as the words.

The opening of the song is a gesture of dreamy withdrawal. It speaks of defense mechanisms kicking in and a backing away from sudden fame. On an optimistic note, even in this state the creative voice "streams" along "in the direction of truth."

sleep as the goer
the bridge that watches the light speed thru
and cries while the spirit stumbles
the inside missile for the protection of you

maybe it's silent
the voice can't bear anymore strain
but speaks without even knowing
and streams outside in the direction of truth

The next section starts with a revelation of sorts. Ultimately material success is meaningless and does not lead to true fulfillment. There is no larger reason. Andrew and Ben are not messiah's. Therefore the open arms of adoring fans, the recording industry, congratulatory friends, etc... feel strangely cold.

there's no reason there's no secret to decode
if you can't save it, leave it dying on the road
wide open arms can feel so cold
so cold
feel so cold

Tempo shift. The steady pulse of life pounds along. The shallow realities of American culture. Reality shows [vote to decide who'll advance]. Terrifying sensationalism [the terrible desire to see a plane crash]. The dark side of drug use [but really there's no trip at all, that doesn't result in a fall]. The trappings of success [nobly wasting the night, but it isn't right]. The desire to run (or "float") away and the inability to do so.

balance the books, the ledges, the loons
the disappointed look on the faces that squint at the moon
let's see it with shadows enhanced
and then vote to decide who'll advance
silver jet plane, making a turn
exciting the brain that expects it to crash and then burn
it's not the life lesson Id've guessed
if you're conscious you must be depressed
or at least cynical
but someone might still eat the steaks
even if they're tough
spending the day
chewing the fat
floating away isn't rough but it's not enough
oh Marianne, pass me the joint
the sandpaper's tan
go-getters are surfing the point
and London's a scratch on the lens
it's over before it begins
silk round her neck falls down to her shoulders
the older I get, the more I suspect there's a trick
but really there's no trip at all
that doesn't result in a fall
or a faltering
but something could spit out the bait
even if it's real
rolling away
missing a spoke
close to the ground like a wheel but it's not a joke
holding the line
clutching the phone
nobly wasting the night, but it isn't right
it's not right
smelling for blood
praying for rain
running away isn't rough , but it's not enough

Tempo shift. The tides (which are always changing) swing back to the state of dreamy withdrawal we found at the beginning of the song. "I hope I die before I get sold" is both the expression of a very real desire to escape being packaged by the music industry and a very clever play the The Who lyric "I hope I die before I get old"

the low tide is telling me, when it's over,
to breathe in everything exposed
and comes back to cover me in a blanket
being here's always changing tunes

the empty sky surrounds me but I can't see at all
wide open arms can feel so cold
and you can sit beside me and tell me what it's worth
but I hope I die before I get sold
I hope I die before I get sold
I'd rather die before I get sold

Tempo shift. Fighting out of the withdrawn dream state and willing life back into the soul. Realizing that there is something inside that cannot be created or destroyed.

if you find the soul that you lost
frozen in a starry void
take it within and hope the sight of blood
can will signs of life to return
back to the way that it was
long before it made a noise
to keep on quietly reminding you
what's never created or destroyed

Awake again. Creating again. But aware that the creative force (while it can't be destroyed) "can always go into hiding."

wake as the swell peaks
the close-outs drowning the birds with roars
and howls scare the new unkindness
that picks and laughs at the carrion scene

forces you see breath can always go into hiding
and wait til it passes over
or stay far gone for all eternity

This is an abridged interpretation. The song is long enough that each line could be mulled over in lengthy fashion. It is really great to find a band and a lyricist that is engaged enough to strive for such a high level in this day of bubble gum pop and cheesy love ballads.


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