MGMT: Congratulations, 12 April 2010
Ok so it’s probably a tad pointless reviewing this album after its well-documented internet leak over a month ago, but some of us are keen to remain professional and for a potential new prog album, I’m always happy to oblige. Except it’s not really prog, is it? I’d sum it up as a reckless, phantasmagorical journey into psychedelic rock, taking in flute solos, tuba solos and all manner of wacky instrumentation in MGMT’s singular pursuit of, er little more than taking the p**s, it seems.
By now you’ll know that MGMT’s Congratulations is the complete antithesis to everything their debut album Oracular Spectacular was. There’s an almost extreme rejection of anything remotely commercial, which is perhaps best epitomised by the sprawling twelve-minute epic Siberian Breaks. I’ve nothing against 12, 20, even 40 minute tracks if they work. Sadly, I’m not so sure this does. It’s pleasant enough to listen to as it can’t be denied that VanWyngarden and Goldwasser (the best surnames in rock, surely?) are both masters of melody and composition. But there’s little that’s groundbreaking here.
There are definite moments of achievement on Congratulations. The whole album has echoes of the superbly smooth, classically French production values expounded by Air on their critically acclaimed album 10,000 HZ Legend, giving us clear reassurance that if MGMT are off their rocker, they haven’t lost their wits completely.
Opening track It’s Working storms into play with crashing drums and rhetorical questions aplenty – “How will I know if it’s working right?” coos a tripped-out VanWyngarden while synths schizophrenically meander and bounce all around him. Song For Dan Treacy continues along this vibe, while Brian Eno, even with it’s daft lyrics, is admittedly catchy.
In some ways, you have to admire them for wholeheartedly living up to the rock-star hype-machine myth by being the tinkers they’re ruthlessly deconstructing. But some moments, like the ludicrously self-indulgent caterwauling on Lady Dada’s Nightmare, just leave you confused. Am I meant to like this? Or should I be smiling wryly at MGMT’s comical tinkering with leftfield music genres?
Congratulations will definitely test the loyalty of their fanbase to the extreme but to be fair, MGMT have always worn their psychedelic rock influences firmly on their bell-bottomed sleeves so a hippy-trippy excursion such as this should really come as no surprise. It will be a huge shock to anyone expecting power-pop melodies and cracking electro hooks though. I wonder what their record label Columbia honestly think of it. And whose decision it was not to release any singles. How’s that for a wry dig?