Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Album review - MGMT 'Congratulations'


THE HAND wringing and angst that has accompanied this album has been a genuine pleasure to observe.
What? MGMT have gone and made a self-indulgent, psychedelic album, with no singles? Described as “challenging”? And wanted to give it away for free? Are they mad?!
It seems the whole world wanted ‘Oracular Spectacular’ Part 2, except two Brooklyn lads called VanWyngarden and Goldwasser, who wanted to make the album they always wanted, an introspective, sprawling odyssey that takes some time to get your head around.
Let’s get one thing straight, despite what you have heard, this is not a drastic departure for MGMT - several of the songs on Congratulations are reminiscent of those on the debut album, but songs along the lines of bombastic hits Time To Pretend, Kids and Electric Feel, are conspicuous in their absence.
Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser never wanted to be the band that churns out anthemic songs like those mentioned above, which they wrote while still in college, and pasted onto their debut album for a patched-up release. Even in Time To Pretend, they lampooned this attitude, singing, tongues firmly stuck in cheek: “Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives/This is our decision, to live fast or die young”.
Abandoning this route, to the record company’s despair no doubt, MGMT have channelled modern-day acoustica through a 70s psychedelic tunnel, and emerged, blinking, on the other side.
With producer Sonic Boom, or Peter Kember, of the cult British psychedelic act Spacemen 3, MGMT have made a 9-track album that is at turns beguiling and bizarre, but is very memorable, and will require many listens to get to the bottom of.
That said, they have produced some very catchy songs on Congratulations, no less than the title track, Someone’s Missing and I Found A Whistle, while the psychedelia is largely limited to the sprawling trippy-folkie 12 minute behemoth of Siberian Breaks and Pink Flloyd-esque Lady Dada’s Nightmare.
Echoing The 5th Dimension’s ‘Aquarius’ on several tracks, notably opener It’s Working, MGMT have loaded the album up with sitars, harpsichords and pan-pipes, which at times can be overloading, but ultimately, even within the twelve minute Siberian Breaks, they produce some very tender and melodic moments.
While Song for Dan Treacy sounds like something The Libertines might have produced if they weren’t, well, crap, there is very little on this album that won’t stand the test of time, and prove that the duo were correct not to merely reproduce their big hits, and instead make an effort to challenge and provoke.
As they sing in Congratulations, “Its hardly sink or swim when all is well, or the tickets sell”. Listen to this album, ignore the bluster, and make up your own mind.

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