Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Album Review: MGMT - Congratulations
It’s hard for me to listen to the new MGMT album Congratulations and not think of it as a giant “fuck you” to the music industry’s “powers that be”. I think in that sense, the album is a complete success. Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were thrust into indie-rock superstardom for their fantastic debut release Oracular Spectacular. The album was shockingly good for a debut, but to say their live show was sub-par is perhaps giving them too much credit. Their highly anticipated sophomore release Congratulations is pretty much a mess. They say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but it’s hard not to with a cover as ridiculous as this one. Moving on, the album opens up with “It’s Working”, one of the few decent songs. It’s heavily layered with strings and a vocal workout that I really picture VanWyngarden pulling off live. That being said, it is quite catchy and the shifts in tempo give it a nice complexity. “Someone’s Missing” finds the boys singing a weird accented whisper which for the life of me, I can not place. The accent is so absurd that it renders the song practically un-listenable. MGMT continues on with their strange obsession with un-placeable accents on “Flash Delirium”. Luckily, the incorporation of so many different musical styles saves this song. MGMT travel from synth-heavy pop, to new wave chanting, to trippy ‘70s style psychedelia (thanks to a quick flute interlude), all with surprising success. The boys ironically nod to the king of ambient music on “Brian Eno”, a song that never attempts to embody anything the man came to represent musically. Congratulations does finish strong with its title track “Congratulations”, perhaps the only serious attempt at writing a good song. The lyrics basically describe the band’s super-fast foray into success over strummed acoustic guitars. I’m still under the impression that MGMT released this album as a statement more than anything. They probably know it blows, but they also know that it will get good reviews regardless. It’s the Dave Chappelle situation all over again. The comedian could have written the shittiest jokes ever and his producers would have laughed. While Chappelle opted to run rather than compromise his integrity, MGMT has chosen the other path. It takes serious talent to make an album as ridiculous as Congratulations, and for that, I applaud them.