MGMT – Congratulations

‘Time To Pretend’ was the ultimate “I want to be famous and god-dammit I will be” song, which, at the same time, mocked that whole philosophy. Now they’re living through exactly what that song was talking about, and they don’t like it one bit. ‘Congratulations’ feels like MGMT are regretting nearly everything fame throws at them; this is them begging to go back to the “playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms”. The psychadelic-electro-pop-rock of their debut is blended with a bizarre sound which sounds close to The Beach Boys, The Jesus and Mary Chain and David Bowie making a soundtrack to a Tex Avery cartoon starring Sonic the Hedgehog. None of them sound like they should be played on the radio – the band aren’t going to release any singles from it at all. Nevertheless, ‘Congratulations’ is a really good record; while it’s not quite as instantly loveable as their debut, it’s often far more rewarding, detailed, ambitious and interesting, albeit less catchy. It’s the sound of homesickness set in a psychedelic cartoon background; a Wizard of Oz on a hallucinogenic comedown. The first thing that strikes you is how messy it all is: everything is thrown together, with emphasis on “everything”. Guitars, synths, flutes, harpsichords, string sections, cartoon voices and plenty more are crammed into as many places as possible creating a richly detailed, but proudly mish-mashed, sonic trifle, that sounds great on the surface, but far better when you focus in and realise how many bits and pieces make it up. While not many of the songs are ringing in your ears after the disc ends, ‘Congratulations’ repays repeated plays tenfold.

Few follow-ups are as daring as this one; to go from a radio-hit machine to making a record which might be commercial suicide, but is rewarding and addictive the more you hear it. It’s meant to be heard as a complete piece and that’s how it works best. A slow-burner, maybe; a failure, definitely not.
‘Congratulations’ isn’t available in the UK yet, but it is currently streaming on their website, next to a poodle with a severed head in front of it. Don’t ask: http://www.whoismgmt.com/

Key Track: Song For Dan Treacey
Listen to this: if you liked the second half of ‘Oracular Spectacular’
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