MGMT
Congratulations


2.5
average

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 11th, 2010 | 171 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A decidedly run-of-the-mill rock record.

It became pretty obvious over the past couple of years that MGMT loathed the massive amounts of success their debut Oracular Spectacular, particularly its singles, had lavished on the band. Grammy nominations, endless radio play, numerous “artist-to-watch” lists; MGMT was everywhere and anywhere due largely to their ability to make quirky, sarcastic indie pop with a psychedelic sheen and produce some damn catchy singles along the way. The backlash that has already come with their sophomore effort, then, should surprise no one. Congratulations is almost bullheaded in its resolve to be something Oracular Spectacular was not – namely, lacking any kind of easily identifiable hit single. In doing so MGMT has no doubt followed whatever artistic vision they had for themselves, but their stubborn refusal to make anything that stands out makes Congratulations a decidedly run-of-the-mill rock record.

“Staying true to yourself” has always been an overrated concept in the realm of indie music, not to mention a vague one. After all, how were songs like “Kids” and “Electric Feel” not a part of MGMT’s goals when they first wrote them, and how could the band be upset that they were reaching so many people who otherwise would never have given a *** about them? Congratulations seems more like a response to the fame and popularity Oracular Spectacular brought them than anything in the band DNA itself, and it’s this kind of knee-jerk reaction that makes the album immediately forgettable. Opener “It’s Working” sets the tone for the majority of the record, neon-colored guitar and bubbly rhythm work complementing Andrew VanWyngarden’s trippy vocals and an appropriately poppy melody. There’s hints of surf rock, hazy electronica, and bits of noise rock throughout, but for the most part Congratulations stays firmly in this psychedelic pop gear that dominated much of Oracular Spectacular’s second half. That’s not to say the songs are bad or unoriginal; “Someone’s Missing” sideshow carnival vibe is awesome in a creepy sort of way, and “I Found A Whistle’s” druggy vibe is hard to resist. But it seems that too much of Congratulations is mired in the same psychedelic morass, shooting itself in the foot with bad namedrops (“Brian Eno”) or worse instrumental meandering (“Lady Dada’s Nightmare”) more often than it distinguishes itself.

It’s frustrating that the best song on here is diminished by the band’s overt attempt to sabotage it. That would be the twelve-minute long “Siberian Breaks,” a genre-bender that flits from folk to classic rock to psychedelic opera with ease but with a length that serves absolutely no purpose except to (presumably) intimidate its listeners. There’s little to no thematic link between the separate parts that make up the whole, making for a disjointed if enjoyable titan of a song that nevertheless leaves one wondering why they just didn’t break it up into more manageable pieces. It’s Congratulations’ biggest shame that the most diverse group of recordings on the record only takes up one track in the listing, leaving room for plenty more by-the-numbers psych-rock that pale in comparison.

Perhaps the most telling moment of my listen was when the title track faded away and iTunes proceeded into “Time to Pretend.” I was immediately absorbed, much more so by than anything that came before, and there lies the overwhelming problem with Congratulations. No one wants MGMT to keep re-making Oracular Spectacular or a hit single like “Time to Pretend,” but with Congratulations they essentially did the former but forgot to include the latter. Oracular Spectacular was never an amazing album, and without those timeless singles, it’s nothing much at all. MGMT have (purposely?) lost that instant magic that they effortlessly whipped up with those debut singles, and in trying to re-establish themselves as artists that don’t need the commercial mainstream to survive, they’ve created a record that lacks any defining characteristics to call its own.



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user ratings (789)
Chart.
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • BenHeller (3.5)
    As a listening experience “Congratulations” is fun, occasionally ridiculous, often mem...

    RobbieC (3)
    MGMT might be alienating their fanbase with this album, but there's sufficient evidence to...

    HeavyB (4)
    Record Sales....We Don't Need No Stinking Record Sales...

    ironbuddahfly (4.5)
    "Congratulations" is not the first warm day of the year that "Oracular Spectacular" was, i...

  • Dominic Mercurio (4)
    A curious, yet good release that will disappoint some and surprise everyone....

    SowingSeason STAFF (3.5)
    Congratulations shows MGMT refusing to become stagnant after just two albums....

    Dylan S. (3.5)
    With their sophomore album "Congratulations," MGMT improves greatly compared to their debu...


Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I saw the video for 'Flash Delirium'' last night & actually didn't mind it. I doubt I could take a whole album of that kind of thing though.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


16921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is an outstanding review, obviously. i have to disagree though...

Digging: Low Roar - 0

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


10583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

individually most of the songs here are fine. over the course of an album though very unremarkable

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

JWT155
April 11th 2010


9358 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Completely agree with everything you said.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


16921 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i do like what you said about the telling moment being when it switched tracks to 'time to pretend'. the same thing happened to me and there's no doubting that oracular spectacular has better moments.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Didn't they say they were not going to release any singles? Then again, a music video doesn't necessarily mean it's a single, I guess.

Romulus
April 11th 2010


8447 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

I agree completely with your last paragraph. The rest is great too that just sums it up well

Slum
April 11th 2010


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Excellent review, Song For Dan Treacy is catchy shit

MrGlass
April 11th 2010


326 Comments


flash delirium was meh, won't be checking this out

JWT155
April 11th 2010


9358 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not gonna miss much tbh.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


31620 Comments


Album is a whole bucket of meh

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

Skyler
April 11th 2010


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I don't know why I bothered to listen to this.

Roach
April 11th 2010


2148 Comments


neither

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


15082 Comments


ugh im not gonna deny kinda liking time to pretend + kids but something irks me about this band

Skyler
April 11th 2010


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I also don't know why Siberian Breaks is 12 fucking minutes long.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Good review Rudy… Hopefully, this is a stepping stone album of sorts & we’ll see the big picture come album #3.

PS: I’d get rid of the first mention of “twelve minute”.


IsItLuck?
Emeritus
April 11th 2010


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

great review. You bring up an interesting perspective that seems 100% true with MGMT. They will be defined for 3 songs, and 3 songs only.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2010


10583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

good call davey, didn't even notice that

BigTuna
April 11th 2010


5161 Comments


Didn't like the first album and after reading your review won't bother with this album.

Digging: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

Skyler
April 11th 2010


1084 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

If you didn't like the first album, there's still a chance that you might like this one. Although I gave both a 2.5, stylistically, I think I like this one a lot more.

I think it has a good sound with some good ideas, but none of them were really put to good use.



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