MGMT: Congratulations

RIYL: The Beach Boys, The Beta Band, The Flaming Lips

With “Time to Pretend,” MGMT crafted a brilliant piece of pop that detailed exactly why they were destined for obscurity. Of course that song ended up being an underground hit of sorts and skyrocketed the band to an appeal that wasn’t exactly mainstream, but was definitely above their original low expectations. And while the band will never attain the stereotyped superstar status that will bring them heroin, models and international fame detailed in that song, they have managed to achieve one rock cliché with the release of Congratulations; the mediocre and needlessly complex second album.

The band has gone out of their way to describe this album in interviews as a cohesive work that should be listened in its entirety, and that it’s not a “singles” record. That’s a lie. This is the definition of a singles record, with the singles being the only worthwhile tracks on the album. Psychedelic freakouts “It’s Working” and “Flash Delirium” stand out so high above the sonic wallpaper they surround that they almost sound like they were recorded by a different band. This rings especially true with “Flash Delirium,” a piece of Beach Boys-inspired psychedelia that Brian Wilson might have written during one of his more manic phases. Another Brian supplies inspiration for the album’s third and final stand-out track; “Brian Eno,” a fast-paced romp of glammed power pop that should please fans of Eno-era Roxy Music.

mgmt band

The rest of the album is just so dull and forgettable that it’s not even worth complaining over, but I’ll try anyway. “Someone’s Missing” is an apt title for a track so incomplete, as it sounds like a half-finished idea that someone forgot to produce, while the bloated “Siberian Breaks” is a 12-minute journey into ambivalence, devoid of anything resembling a hook or memorable riff. The duo’s attempt at slowing things down, like on the tepid “I Found a Whistle” and the instrumental ‘Lada Dada’s Nightmare” are where things really fall apart into a sea of somber banality. Yikes, maybe there is some stuff here worth complaining over after all.

Download “Flash Delirium,” “It’s Working” and “Brian Eno,” because they are amazing tracks. But avoid everything else that Congratulations has to offer. Until then, here’s hoping that MGMT’s third album is the stereotypical “comeback” record that brings them back to form. (Sony/Columbia 2010)

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