Reviews

Review: MGMT – Congratulations

by Marcus K. Dowling

“I’d rather dissolve and have you ignore me…” – “Congratulations” MGMT Congratulations, 2010

At best, MGMT is a band that harnesses the effervescent spirit of psychedelic pop and infuses it with a bombast of inherently dance-friendly synthesizers and drum breaks. At worst, MGMT is a band that wallows in self-pity over their perceived inability as artists and producers to never be able to ascend to the heights of Phil Spector, Lennon and McCartney and Brian Wilson. Somewhere in that void lies MGMT’s meandering sophomore release Congratulations.

2007’s Oracular Spectacular is the type of album that will never be duplicated. The earnest expression of tracks like “Kids,” “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel” have pretty much become sonic guideposts for a significant section of popular music. Andrew Vanwygarten and Ben Goldwasser are now forever fated to attempting to match the quality and style of expression found in their debut, and clearly have decided to be frightened by their success, assert their independence and move in a separate direction. Yes, lead single “Flash Delirium” sounds like it’s cut from the same cloth, but listen to the rest of the album, and you’ll see that MGMT is now making stripes and the old sound is plaid. On their official website, the band even mentions being willing to give away the album for free, as even they’re intensely aware that this record is an antagonizing listen for those massively in favor of the first release.

Know from hearing the drum pickup from the Phil Spector produced Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” in the apropos titled first track “It’s Working” what you’re signing up for here. Bake a pizza in the amount of time it takes to appreciate the Rubber Soul era Beatles qualities of the twelve minute long “Siberian Breaks.” Enjoy the Pink Floyd stylings of the intentionally weird and mysterious “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” and listen very intently to the lyrics of “Congratulations.” MGMT’s a band that at its deepest core slavishly worships at the altar of the year 1965, the year that both the Beatles and Beach Boys, superior pop acts with note-perfect timing, initially went psychedelic, freaked out the world and expanded the concept of what pop music could become. Where Congratulations fails is that  it’s not 1965 and bands tremendously more famous and in many cases hundreds of times better have recorded better albums. From a production and orchestration standpoint, it’s excellent. owever, there are no other bands recording music at the level of stardom of MGMT for them to compete with at making pop music intensely thoughtful and cosmic. Nobody cares about a one horse race. There’s no drama, and nobody really wins. The album is an in depth exploration of the creative thrusts of MGMT. Are those qualities that become a second album for a million album selling band? Certainly not.

In final, MGMT is trapped in a very public struggle with the concept of their own fame. The ideals that made MGMT seem to be breaking them, as they appear to be the quintessential indie kids who never believed in a million years that the universe would find what they had to say remotely entertaining. Well, they did, and now are dealing with it in the most public of forums. These growing pains are the saddest and most depressing to watch, and in this case, listen to.


  • yournansgooch

    Let me get this straight – you spend the entire review slagging the album off and then give it a positive score? And what’s that rubbish about it being a one horse race. Surely that only goes to show how different from the crowd MGMT are? It’s a really good album, an improvement on OS, and stop contradicting yourself.

  • J

    Wow, you’re an idiot. You’re writing is poor and your logic is worse. Quit your job. “Nobody cares about a one horse race. There’s no drama, and nobody really wins. The album is an in depth exploration of the creative thrusts of MGMT. Are those qualities that become a second album for a million album selling band? Certainly not.” What the fuck does that even MEAN?!?! You’re punctuation is seriously lacking, you have run-on sentences and generally make statements and conclusions that seem to come out of nowhere and generally have no logical reinforcement. I’m confused… You should rethink your profession.

  • Sotiris

    “Nobody cares about a one horse race. There’s no drama, and nobody really wins. The album is an in depth exploration of the creative thrusts of MGMT. Are those qualities that become a second album for a million album selling band? Certainly not.”

    Um… Dude, I just care about the music. I’m sure MGMT didn’t make this album to compete with anyone. It’s not a race.

    Yes, the album is not perfect, but most of your points don’t stand.

    I congratulate them for not choosing the easy way, but doing what their heart told them. I congratulate them for not selling out.

    I expected Congratulations to be a serious let down, and yet I enjoyed it. I am thankful to MGMT for making music different to almost anything else out there.

  • http://none Jason

    Thank you for saying what everyone is thinking, this album sucks plain and simple. Congrats and Siberian are good but not great and everything else is crap. If this is where they are at musically they should have waited another year or two to release the next album cuz this sounds like an awkward teenage girl trying to get a date. No fun!

  • dez

    hey…i think this is a valiant effort. I think i like this new album, but I’m not sure? I honestly don’t know what to think. It’s either somewhat brilliant, or it meanders. too early to tell. I like the chord progressions but I’m wondering if it’s all a maze that leads to a dead end. I like the production and I don’t have a problem with an album that doesn’t have ‘singles’. I am a fan of the ‘album’ as an important work of art. But, my initial reaction is that I would have liked a little more of the Electro elements that were on their 1st album. But, that’s where I’m at. It doesn’t make an album good or bad, or right/wrong. Matter of fact, I think an artist should only do what they feel like and believe in…because art should have integrity at its core, even if/when it’s a bit cheeky. So, I applaud MGMT for that much. Oracular Part II would have been easy for them to make, but I’m not a fan of sequels.

  • sen

    Yeah, seriously, “one-horse race”? Huh? Sounds like you’re disappointed that MGMT isn’t involved in some kind of massive pop-psych-rock innovation battle on the lines of Beach Boys/Beatles, but that’s irrelevant to the music.

    I learned nothing about the album from your article. I just discovered that you think “Congratulations” fits poorly as a sophomore album, and has no external drama to spice it up. REVIEW THE DAMN MUSIC, not its place in some structure.

  • Shane

    You make it sound as if selling-out is the admirable thing for a band to!!! some people are happy just playing music, and some fans are happy just listening to those people playing that music, there doesn’t always hafta be a blur/oasis situation going on for music to be relevant, it just has to be good!
    And this is a good album and im pleasantly surprised MGMT shunned the singles and did what they wanted.

  • http://thecouchsessions.com Stone

    Hey y’all, check out a counterpoint to this review that was posted on the website today:

    http://www.thecouchsessions.com/2010/03/counterpoint-mgmt-congratulations/

  • Not an Idiot

    I’m pretty sure MGMT isn’t trying to be revolutionary. Ben and Andrew know that they are not molding the clichés of pop music. They just want to make their kind of music. But they also don’t want to be forgotten. They are Not bending to your standards but doing what they believe is best. So why don’t you stop focusing on their motives and listen to the damn good album they just put out.

  • diddlebunk

    you misheard the lyric you open your review with, mate. the line is, “I’d rather dissolve *than* have you ignore me.” now let’s rewrite that review.

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