MGMT is jarring, surreal, wonderful on Congratulations

I think the best way to approach MGMT’s follow-up album, Congratulations, is to just pretend it’s not by MGMT. At least not by the MGMT you know and love already for their pop-indie hits “Kids,” “Time To Pretend” and “Electric Feel.” One of the things that plagued reception to the band’s first new single, “Flash Delirium,” was that it was jarringly different from all expectations and preconceived notions of the band. But does that alone merit a poor reaction to their new album? No. Absolutely not. So if you’re having trouble getting through Congratulations, pretend it’s made by some hip new band. Not MGMT. Does that help? Good.

Now, diving into the album headfirst, it’s surprisingly catchy and fun. Unlike the sad drone that hung over their last record, much of Congratulations is typically upbeat and bright, albeit with darker undertones. The cover really gives off an appropriate mood: like a day at the beach on a terrifyingly fun acid trip. The whole thing takes on a surrealist attitude, seemingly aiming to disarm and confuse. Songs build and heighten only to change suddenly and then end abruptly. Much like bands like Fiery Furnaces and Liars, MGMT has entered the musical world that defies conventions and acts more as a modern art form than traditional music does.

Their new, convention-busting style is more than apparent on the lead single “Flash Delirium.” The song runs the gamut from minimalism, head-bopping pop, chanting, reverberating psychedelics and a flute solo. If anything, it shows that MGMT doesn’t care how much you loved their last album, they’re doing what they want. Chilled-out tracks like “I Found A Whistle,” “Someone’s Missing” and “Congratulations” contrast nicely with the spastic weirdo songs “Song For Dan Treacy,” “Flash Delirium” and “Brian Eno,” but one of the struggles of the album is finding a balance between the two.

Congratulations comes off hectic and unstable, both between songs and within them. On one hand, you can chalk this up to the band’s own creative intention. On the other, you can call it a sophomore struggle. But to call this album a full-out failure is not just missing the point entirely, it’s plain ignorant. Congratulations shows off a lot of amazing musical and artistic talent that can’t be overlooked. Overall it’s a good, maybe not great, album that finds it’s audience splintered between those who just want more “Kids” and those who applaud creative exploration. Regardless, the band has left the shell of what used to be MGMT behind, and has created a new beast. Maybe they can go back to calling it “The Management” because, why not anymore?

MGMT – “Flash Delirium” [MP3]

MGMT – “Song For Dan Treacy” [MP3]

Buy Congratulations

1 comment to MGMT is jarring, surreal, wonderful on Congratulations

  • Really, you like this album? To me it sounds like a really poor attempt at re-making 60’s psychedelic pop.
    One of the worst sophomore albums of the year for me