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Album Review


Sony Music Entertainment

Review Date
20th April 2010
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

Buy into MGMT’s current spate of self-disrespect if you want to, but anyone who is truly shocked by Congratulations probably never listened to the second half of Oracular Spectacular in the first place. While there may not be a ‘Kids’, ‘Time to Pretend’ or ‘Electric Feel’ on the album, this is far from the “career suicide” that Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have proclaimed. There are still strong elements of psychedelia and soul that permeated their debut, only they’ve crafted those influences into something new and challenging rather than rehashing old ideas. Basically, if you were hoping for Oracular Spectacular Part II, then I and the band are sorry; Congratulations is not that album.

Instead MGMT, who are now a five piece, have come up with nine songs that incorporate about 10 times as many ideas. While it’d be a stretch to say that they’ve mastered the approach, when it works, it works exceptionally well. When it doesn’t, though it’s less often, you do begin to wonder if the band had cause to be worried about their fans reaction, rather than it being a carefully orchestrated PR stunt.

The first two songs ‘It’s Working’ and ‘Song for Dan Treacy’ allude perfectly to what Congratulations is all about; mainly energetic psychedelic pop with a tendency to veer from left to right. The vocals come across as slightly Kink-sian, while the structure is not dissimilar to The Mint Chicks’ Screens. The album continues with ‘Someone’s Missing’ which is softer and more straightforward, before the Motown influenced coda shapes it into a real highlight, albeit a short one.

From here on in Congratulations sways between those two approaches before MGMT throw everything they have into the 12 minute plus ‘Siberian Breaks’. The amalgamation of styles makes it more of a medley than just one song, but if you can stick with it, it really is an imaginative feast that blossoms into an electro jam unlike anything MGMT have done before. The muddled ‘Brian Eno’ and Bowie-esque instrumental ‘Lady Dada’s Nightmare’ however, aren’t particularly vital to the album, but the title track that concludes proceedings is a brilliant 70’s inspired slow jam full of acoustic guitar and gentle keyboard notes that couldn’t be more different from how the album began.

So it may not quite be what people expected, but that in no way makes Congratulations bad. If anything, all of the trash talk and apologising from the band has achieved what it was supposed to, making this album a pleasant surprise.

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