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Album review: MGMT's 'Congratulations'

Mgmt MGMT meets needs we never knew we had. For instance, who guessed America craved a jazz flute in an odd-metered pop single? That one-finger synth riffs can adequately replace chorus hooks? Or that a duo weirder than any peers in Brooklyn should be camped out on mainstream rock radio?

After delivering a left-field hit with 2008's "Oracular Spectacular," MGMT earned its license to dive off the deep end. And lo, did it take its label up on it with "Congratulations," a sprawling mix of DEVO-inspired kitsch-punk, chocolate-fountain yacht rock and intricately screwy psychedelics that could indicate a Pop Art band running on all cylinders -- or a fascinating, career-tipping indulgence.

The duo has largely dropped the sopping synthesizers that defined much of "Oracular Spectacular" in favor of, well, more of absolutely everything else. "Flash Delirium" evokes Queen if they had only a single Casio to play with but infinite tape to multi-track it, and "Siberian Breaks" has a bleary pomp worthy of "Pet Sounds."

The album's peppier tracks are front-loaded early, and even if the duo are capable '70s sylvan prog revivalists, the back end of "Congratulations" feels directionless. But still, let's savor any moment when a major label hears fake sitars and doesn't flinch.

-- August Brown

Two and a half stars

Comments () | Archives (3)

Really? That's your review of the album? The LA Times gives a whopping 200 words to an album that has become the most controversial and oft discussed album in the entire indie world this year? Taking this crappy paper out of my RSS feed. You are irrelevant.

Personally, I don't like the album. I think that it is a sophomoric attempt at psych-garage, etc. Given that they had lots of time and money to make this, it's quite a disappointment. The songs just aren't very good. Campy lyrics like in "Brian Eno", etc. Had the songs been stronger, I could have lived with the left turn that the band made. This just leaves me saying, meh....

Man this album is trash...I agree this review is pretty short for such an anticipated album. I really liked certain moments from their previous album. I actually hated "Kids" and "Time to Pretend" especially the latter because the lyrics are stupid, and the melodies are high school level at best. There were some really cool songs like "Weekend Wars", "The Handshake" and "Electric Feel." However, the new album has nothing that catches my ear. I'm pretty open to weird music (I like a lot of 70's prog rock), but this album isn't even weird. It's not cutting edge at all. It's everything that sucks from prog rock, combined with everything that sucks from indie rock. Sophmore slump indeed.

Can somebody please explain to me what the hell "chocolate-fountain yacht rock" actually means? And in regards to "But still, let's savor any moment when a major label hears fake sitars and doesn't flinch," no, let's not. Throwing a sitar onto something just for the hell of it doesn't equal musical greatness, it means that in all likelihood MGMT simply purchased a copy of a Nuggets psychedelic compilation and thought that they'd turn a blind eye to the various hipsters and frat boys that championed their first record. It's one thing to go in a different direction, but not when it's some half-assed attempt at disowning your previous record in a haze of psychedelic gibberish.


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