ALBUM: MGMT – Congratulations

Release Date: April 13th, 2010
Label: Columbia


In general, people like money. Money contrary to popular belief, can likely buy you happiness. However, for some peculiar reason some people in the music industry hate money. They see money as a bad thing. That takes their credibility away from them apparently. Take MGMT for instance; they got pretty upset for some reason, that their second album ‘Oracular Spectacular’ spawned three pretty monstrous singles, which subsequently popped up in Hollywood films and the bits in Hollyoaks where they don’t speak and other such things where people are paid to find emotive yet commercially viable music to use. In fact the band took their ‘art’ so seriously that they sued THE PRESIDENT OF FRANCE when he used ‘Kids’ in campaign videos and the like without permission. And so, their response is ‘Congratulations’ which they initially didn’t want to release singles for, insisting (in NME where their outlandish pretentious cockishness likely fitted in quite well) that the album was a body of work.

In all fairness, it isn’t as poppy as ‘Oracular Spectacular’, and as every reviewer under the Sun would tell you it’s more progressive, although not progressive in the Rush or Yes kind of way. Anyway, as the band intended for ‘Congratulations’ to be a “body of work” with no singles, I’ll review it so on a track by track basis:

‘It’s Working’ – Kicks the album off well, sounded sort of like The Beach Boys. But definitely not the kind of song I would expect in a “body of work” as it seemed to stand alone pretty well.

‘Song For Dan Treacy’ – A pretty standard slice of indie, except with more ska-ish synths and the vocals further down in the mix. It starts off pretty low key before building into something quite frantic.

‘Someone’s Missing’ – A short echoey kind of interlude ends up sounding quite dramatic in the end with a big bouncy ending. The vocals are too low down for me to be able to properly understand what they are talking about most of the way through, but in this one I believe that it feels like someone’s missing. Just a guess.

‘Flash Delirium’ – This was the first sort of single they offered, and as such it is the song with the most single like qualities in it. To me it sounded like newer Of Montreal album tracks. Except nowhere near as bombastic. However, there is a thematic sort of similarity, taking Of Montreal‘s ‘Hissing Fauna, You Are Not The Destroyer’ being the singer’s attempt to escape from a messy divorce, MGMT offer a look at trying to get away from being T4 friendly POP SUPERSTARZ. While, not being quite as straightforward, this song is the one for me that most closely harkens back to the previous album.

‘I Found A Whistle’ – The psychedelia continues with this one. A soft acoustic guitar plays with rad synths (man!) swirling away behind it with a trippy vocal. And it is quite good, for a style of music that I don’t really think works as a new release in 2010.

‘Siberian Breaks’ – Now this is the big one. A twelve minute odyssey that should really test the band’s credentials as a prog/psych or whatever the hell else band. They seem to pass the test. Another acoustic start starts to build into something more with some light cymbals some keyboard riffs and some bells I think too. What is most important with songs of this length is that unless they have something good planned for the end of the song, is that they don’t blow their load too soon. Because even when at around the five minute mark, the song breaks down into big drums and lots of psych guitar work, there is still more to come. It eventually starts whirring into life with some pounding rock and anthemic singing before signing off with a dramatic bubbly synth and some tense drums. So while the song was good in places, it did struggle to hold my attention throughout.

‘Brian Eno’ – No prizes for guessing what this is about. Bouncy enough but feels kind of like filler to me. The pace of the song meant it was positioned poorly on the record.

‘Lady Dada’s Nightmare’ – A pretty instrumental, with some distorted guitar and a baroque like feeling to it, with some added screaming. As a penultimate track it worked well in winding the album down.

‘Congratulations’ – The title track is actually probably the best song on the album. An introspective, soft sounding track with some excellent lyrics. It has an album closer like feeling to it without coming across as overly melodramatic. There was a string instrument at the beginning and end which sounded sort of like an intergalactic harp that I quite liked.

I’ll quickly chicken out and throw MGMT a bone. As a “body of work” (sigh) I don’t think this justifies all the fuss the band made about it being viewed as such. I don’t think it flows especially well, and while some of the songs are similarly themed, I don’t think they come together especially well. Overall, this album is a nice experimental album with some cool songs, but all in all actually pretty forgettable and while they may not care, the lack of POP HITS will probably hurt them commercially, while the quality of the music isn’t enough to take them a step up as a band in terms of critical acclaim.

Written by Paul Smith