Sunday, March 28, 2010



MGMT make a somewhat anemic and forced return with a less punchy second album.

You probably know a lot about MGMT already. In 2008 the duo of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden took (most of) the world by storm. Hits such as 'Electric Feel', 'Time to Pretend' and 'Kids' launched the band into the stratosphere of popular music. It seemed as if their music was impossible to escape. Then 2009 came around and they disappeared into what they called, "A small cabin in the woods" to work on album number two. Meanwhile these 'untouchables' became victim to a string of criticism about their ability to play live and about the overall mediocrity of the rest of their album. Now as 2010 gets underway they're back with something to prove to their loyal Gen Y cult following. Which is where Congratulations comes in.

NME hollowly stated that the album was full of 'psyche nuggets' but this comment left everyone confused as to what they meant. The band has used synth and post-production tools to to re-create the surreal, optimistic and catchy sound that invigorated audiences before. As the melody of opening track 'It's Working' dips and flows you're fooled into thinking this is going to be Oracular Spectacular 2. Even the title of tracks like 'Flash Delirium' wistfully link back to the original trippy sounds of 'Electric Feel'.

The sound has changed, however, and the result is a more stripped back recording. The engineered sound has been removed to reveal more humane voices whilst the synth has been toned down to allow for jolting bass lines. The hooks barely feel like hooks and the music rolls around like the giant cartoon wave pictured on the album cover. Everything seems to flow like water but it often stops short right before the crescendo removing any feeling of satisfaction.

The music is well composed and it's hard not to get drawn into some of their more infectious melodies and beats. The problem is that there are no stand out tracks that 'pop' or excite the listener. Congratulations is like a symphony missing a movement, the one that really engages the audience. Imagine OK Computer without 'Paranoid Android'. MGMT have even resigned themselves to this fact by not releasing any singles and stating, "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!"

The two have further confessed that a lot of the subject matter on the record is about dealing with their new found popularity. This certainly seems like a less than original concept. Yet instead of drumming up sympathy they seem to have tackled this concern by name dropping and comparing themselves to other big stars as if they were Snoop Dog. Song titles such as ' Lady Dada's Nightmare', 'Son for Dean Treacy' and 'Brian Eno' only dig a hole for their infamous pretension. Perhaps fame was the worst thing to ever happen to the duo.

Upside: 'It's Working' - A reasonably catchy and interesting opening track. It bobs up and down, even pausing with a few moments of dead air to create suspense.

Downside: 'I Found a Whistle' - Overly pretentious and mostly nonsensical for the point of being nonsensical. If it was catchy this would be alright but instead it stays true to its lyric and is "such a drag".

Best Lyric:

"Plants, as far as I know are still/ Still bending toward the light/And if we dance until the heart explodes/It'll make this place ignite/And even if this hall collapses/I can stand by my pillar of hope it's just/A case of flash delirium"

Sounds like:
Oracular Spectacular stripped back musically. Influences in most songs stem back to 90's rock fused with psychedelic sounds.

Are MGMT Back? Or should we all move on to something different? Let Post '88 know!

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