Monday, April 12

MGMT - Congratulations

. Monday, April 12

The preamble to MGMT's second album 'Congratulations', has been firmly centred around it being a deeply un-commercial album with 'no singles'. Claims by band members Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyndgarden that the album represented their true personalities, lead you to believe that a Television Personalities inspired Spaceman 3 produced psychedelic adventure awaits those seduced by the club-pop anthems of 'Kids' and 'Electric Feel'. Such disparity and friction creates a good story and thus a hype is created. The truth is that MGMT certainly have ditched the sound that made them famous however they haven't quite jumped in at the deep end in the way you might think.

Anyone who caught MGMT live during the touring process of their first album 'Oracular Spectacular' should not be surprised by the bands decision to ditch the short, pop melodies for noodling, extended jam sessions and forays into the high art of patience testing. One of the most indulgent live acts around it always felt that their truth lay in album tracks such as '4th Dimension Transition' as opposed to the arm waving, chest bellowing pop gems like 'Time To Pretend'. The very fact that 'Kids' was used as a one track encore played karaoke style over a pre-recorded backing track should have made people aware that MGMT were a band reticent to be the indie idols the fans and media made them out to be.

With the pre album hype combined with a long held suspicion then it is no shock to discover that 'Congratulations' is no walk in the park. If anything it's a kidnapped and blindfolded, spun around a hundred times and set free walk – lacking direction and making you feel a bit queasy. Take 'Flash Delirium' for example. Currently being used as the single to promote 'Congratulations' (Radio play and a high-budget single somewhat flying in the face of the bands claims to have no singles). The song embodies the spirit of the album in four demented minutes. Starting out like a Flight Of The Conchords spoof it then skips its way through pan pipe solo's, dreamy space rock and an eccentric pop-stomp before descending into a paranoid rant reminiscent of The Coral wigging out on 'Skeleton Key'. It's an infectious slice of madness and one that you suspect may be the blueprint for all future MGMT releases. Much of Congratulations follows in a similar vein, eyeing the obvious route and veering as far away from it as possible. When it works MGMT sound like everything the promised on their début and more. Where Oracular Spectacular was a glossy, inner city tale of freedom and hedonism, 'Congratulations' is draped in sepia tones and hazy smoke. The ideas are less bold and bright but still hint at the workings of a pair of magically warped brains. 'It's Working', 'Dan Treacy' and 'I Found A Whistle' all display a band who can write fantastic songs whilst 'Brian Eno' will surely be the crowd sung nail in the 'No Singles on this album' coffin.

However, for every moment of stoner pop majesty there is a drab foray into the unknown to bring things crashing down. The album is riddled with them but as if to compound the misery MGMT bring us Siberian Breaks ,a twelve minute example of why they are such a frustrating band. You suspect that this is how the band see themselves when they look in the mirror, wildly experimental kaleidoscopic pop adventurers. In reality it's a song that the skip button was designed for, a song that will herald huge queues at the bar whenever they play at a gig or festival for the next eighteen months.

'Congratulations' is by no means a definitive statement of who MGMT are. It plays through like the musings of a band wanting to put two fingers up at what they achieved first time around, a self-knowing act of rebellion masked by a love of English prog bands from the Eighties. If, as suspected, MGMT fall off the commercial radar then they will be able to look inside themselves and make a record that sounds believable and true because all we have at the moment are phoney odes to former glories.


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