Category: MGMT

In rotation: MGMT's 'Late Night Tales'

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In rotation: MGMT's 'Late Night Tales'

When the duo MGMT broke into the mainstream with its great 2008 hits “Time to Pretend,” “Kids” and “Electric Feel,” the general sense was that it had hit on a particular sound at a particular moment, and when that moment passed it'd vanish until we got nostalgic for those songs at 2020 class reunions. Then MGMT released its 2010 follow-up, “Congratulations,” a strange, beguiling psychedelic guitar record that had very little in common with the earlier hits. “Late Night Tales” is a mix tape that connects the dots by way of illustrating the breadth of the duo's influences, and confirms that it has a very clear idea of what it's doing. 

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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


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