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CONGRATULATIONS by mgmt

by Gordon

 

Pitchfork: 6.8           Rolling Stone: 3/5           Metacritic: 70           Spin: 4/5

 

Released: April 2010
Tracklisting:
  1. It’s Working [LISTEN]

  2. Song for Dan Treacy
  3. Someone’s Missing
  4. Flash Delirium
  5. I Found A Whistle
  6. Siberian Breaks
  7. Brian Eno
  8. Lady Dada’s Nightmare
  9. Congratulations

   I, like nearly every other MGMT listener, was first drawn to the band for two simple reasons: “Kids” and “Time To Pretend” (for some it might have been only one of the two reasons and for others a third: “Electric Feel”). And I’m fairly certain that at least half of all MGMT listeners have only ever listened to some combination of those songs, whether through parties, radio, mix CDs, or YouTube.

   When I bought Oracular Spectacular in search of more of these hits, I wasn’t too surprised to discover that it contained no more. Instead, it consisted of zany, genre-bending psychadelia that ranged in intensity from hushed to anthemic. None wooed me with first, second or even third listens. But as I soldiered on in growing acceptance and hopeful pursuit, I became very fond of the sound…not nearly as catchy as those mentioned earlier, but bold and refreshing enough.

   And when their second release, Congratulations, hit stores, I, like nearly every other MGMT listener, was anxiously hoping for another “Kids”, another “Time To Pretend”, just one more party-pleaser. Turns out the band actually tried quite hard to avoid this, not altogether happy with the fame and attention that resulted from the success of their earlier hits. And it kind of pisses me off. I’m not one hundred percent convinced they could write another “Kids” if they tried, and this would have been a great time to try (and make their listeners happy as a result).

   What’s left, then, is an album that sounds 100 percent much what 70 percent of Oracular sounded. Opener “It’s Working” (video here), apparently about the ecstasy they regret not doing earlier in their success, is your standard, chorus-y psych-rock, a little retro in its 60s surf-style bassline. The potential to Track 3, “Someone’s Missing”, is unfortunately revealed only in the song’s last 30 seconds, it taking two droning minutes for singer Andrew VanWyngarden to go into his quiet, high-pitched, almost teasing vocals to get us there.

   “Flash Delirium” is an album standout, Pitchfork Media saying it “features flutes, horns, and about seven different sections that reference doo-wop, old school rock’n’roll, electro balladry, Ariel Pink-style lo-fi, wall-of-Spector pop, and The Beatles at their most high.” While the praise seems a little high to me, when I think about it, I kind of agree. Its final, chorus-y minute and a half make for what I hear as the happiest and catchiest album moment. The video below proves that the band may just have the weirdest videos out there today…I don’t always get it but I dig it. “Siberian Breaks”, at just over 12 minutes, and though musically striking for less than half of those, still pulls off some great moments in its ever-changing audio focus, and should be praised for its ambition any way you look at it.

   And closer / title track “Congratulations” which begins like a modern-day version of The Band’s “The Weight”, while sticking mostly to a slow acoustic ballad with VanWyngarden’s vocals lulling on top, serves as one of the few enjoyably relaxing MGMT listens. Though the band may be a bit cocky in its closing sentiments (“Spread my arms and soak up ‘Congratulations’”), I don’t feel that they don’t deserve at least a healthy dose. And I have a feeling that, while it might take a year or more before I’ve truly soaked up the album, it will be at that point that I may very well have much higher praise for it. But damn if they couldn’t have just included one more radio-friendly pop tune.

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