Music Reviews

MGMT Congratulations

(Sony/Columbia) Rating - 4/10

MGMT would love to be difficult. They want to be artsy, original, psychedelic. They want legions of stoned indie kids to come to their standing room only shows. Instead they are burdened with a fantastic gift for melodic psych-pop and fans from all over. They hate it. They hate being popular, and if you have somehow managed to find success making the music you want to make, chances are they think you’re a douche.

The answer to their problems? Try and be like Pink Floyd! The Doors! Anyone who ever made psychedelic rock! Whenever a band does that, people mistake it for originality and quality! So, they made Congratulations, an album full of shifty, sometimes massive and rarely catchy psych pop. They abandoned the electro catchiness that made them any good in the first place. Oracular Spectacular was a pretty flawed album, but it had some outstanding moments that showed a buttload of promise. Not many bands can claim to have a buttload of promise. But instead of perfecting their craft, their asses shit out an album chock full of forced attempts at difficult art-prog.

Take the 12 minute centerpiece, Siberian Breaks. The whole thing is perfectly tolerable, and could have been three or four different songs instead of one behemoth. It’s admirable for its clean transitions between multiple nearly unrelated sections. But beyond all that, it’s just boring. Nothing exciting ever happens. It’s like Muse’s Exogenesis symphony from last year. It’s nowhere near as bad, but it’s following the same idea that long somehow equates to good. Long songs definitely can be good, but their length is not necessarily what makes them so.

All the ridiculousness aside, they have made some legitimate artistic strides. It’s a far more consistent and better constructed album than their debut. Their songwriting is more varied, going after pop-culture, turning to introspection and to pop silliness instead of narrowly focusing on childhood themes. Flash Delirium and Someone’s Missing are pretty good pop songs.

They are the closest thing to obvious singles on the whole album, which, in this case, is a problem. None of the songs are good enough as growers or deep tracks to hold up the album. Oracular relied entirely on singles; it’s as if they are reacting to that by creating an album completely devoid of any. It seems like they are trying not to be catchy and not to give mainstream audiences anything to enjoy. They’ve struck a very awkward middle ground between easy, fun pop music and a more difficult psychedelic sound. It doesn’t ever hit either demographic right, and pleasing both is nearly impossible. It just sounds aimless and forced.