MGMT - Congratulations

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The Electro/Pop act that inspired Jay-Z, Jim Jones and Kid Cudi takes bold steps on their sophomore, but did they lose sight of the magic that brought them here?

Imagine you release an album and it’s wildly successful, at least in terms of the size of your band. Your songs are being played everywhere: on TV, in movies, at clubs, rappers like Jim Jones are jumping on remixes of them (there is even talk that you’ll be featured on Jay-Z’s highly anticipated Blueprint 3); they are taking up space on countless homemade mixtapes. But funnily enough, it’s always the same two or three songs the licensers are asking for or the mixtape makers are downloading.  While preparing to record your second album you have a choice it seems, to give the people what they want or try to prove you are “more” than those hits and veer so wildly away from what made you a success that it almost seems like antagonistic act. MGMT, the band in question, have chosen to do the latter on their sophomore record, Congratulations. The Brooklyn-based duo which had previously made a few of the hookiest songs of the decade ("Electric Feel," "Kids") decided that what they really wanted to do was veer away from their Gold-selling debut, Oracular Spectacular. MGMT have determined, like so many young groups, that being a good Pop-Rock band is unworthy of their time. They’ve decided to stretch and show their range. However on Congratulations, instead of something new but equally compelling as what came before, we get an experiment record bursting with half-formed ideas and psychedelic signifiers.
   


Opener “It’s Working” is a decent microcosm of Congratulations as a whole. It features gauzy productions, whimsical harpsichord, and a fatal lack of memorable musical passages. It also introduces, with lines like “How will I know if it’s working right,” this album’s lyrical trend of confusion, disillusionment and cynicism. Some of the album’s choice lyrics being “real emotion's such a drag,” “You’ll never be as good as the Rolling Stones,” and “I hope I die before I get sold.” With this level of writing, it’s hard not to see the album as a pointed “so what” directed at the band’s popularity, achieved on the back of catchy Pop singles. Track two is “Song for Dan Treacy,” which attempts, unsuccessfully, to create the same shambolic immediacy that Television Personalities front man of the song’s title seemingly did so effortlessly. This is the first of two songs that name check well respected esoteric musicians. Much like David Bowie’s "Hunky Dory" tributes to Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, these feel like attempts to position MGMT in the lineage of these two men. But name-checks are never enough; these songs fail to show that the duo shares any of the qualities that made those two musicians so revered. The second of the two is “Brian Eno,” by far the most awkward and silly track on the album. Like “Dan Treacy,” it's sung in a severely-affected British accent which goes to great lengths to cram Eno minutia into the lyrics. The song stumbles to a close in a mass of sound effects, another attempt to alert the listener that this is weird, Psychedelic music.

Another trippy touchstone the group makes sure not to miss is the sitar which they feature on “Someone's Missing” one of the outstanding Congratulations offerings. The memorable bit is the repeated mantra of the outro, "It feels like someone's missing.” Another song that saves its interesting ideas for the fade-out is “I Found a Whistle”, an acoustic dirge adorned with wobbly synths. That two of the most engaging passages on the album are outros seems willfully withholding.
   
The record closes with a duo of songs that illustrate MGMT’s strengths and weaknesses. First there is the pretentious “Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” an atmospheric piece that fails to create any kind of atmosphere. It’s clearly going for dark and spooky but it fails because, like when the group attempts “far-out” music, they simply through together a few old chestnuts and call it a day. Here, it’s haunted house organ, minor piano chords, and screaming, wordless vocals. Next, and finally, there is the album’s titular song. It’s easily Congratulations' strongest and its simplest, made up of laid back Psych-Folk acoustic guitars, steel drums and a strong melody. It reminds the listener that these guys can create enjoyable, charming music. One thing that must be said for all the songs is that they “sound” good, the band and Space-Rock titan Pete Kember make sure the whole album is pleasing, but hardly daring or enduring.
   
The album’s most telling lyric is “Wide open arms can feel so cold.” MGMT achieved commercial and critical success in Oracular Spectacular, so they lashed out and instead of creating more hummable Pop songs they created a swirling, psychedelic mess. And it's not that making psychedelia in 2010 isn't a worthwhile pursuit. It's that if it's going to be done it has to be more than a retread of the elements that defined that music 40 years ago. Cliché’s, presented as is with no attempt at exploration or deconstruction, will never be revelatory or mind expanding, will never display your “artistic depth” to the popular masses. MGMT have proven this by making one of the biggest clichés of all, the "difficult second album."

41 Comments

  • John45/23

    Awesome album. I actually liked this better than they're 1st album. They're amazing live I bought the cd and vinyl of this album lol.

  • timothy leary and alex shulgin

    Listen every1 : drop some acid and eat 2 shizzles then listen to this amazin album. 1 of our favorite albums next to Orac. Spectac

  • gpk

    Disappointed to see this album reviewed. Real hip-hop isn't influenced by this bullshit.

  • sparxsman

    ALL UNSIGNED ARTIST REGISTER @ WEBUILDHITS.COM PLAY THE GAME WITH HIPHOP`S BIGGEST PRODUCERS

  • buckeyewu

    This is when you can tell hip hop is dead. This music influences hip hop acts? That's a damn shame. I might as well be listening to the Monkees or perhaps a Partridge Family soundtrack to get influence for my rhymes and beats. I appreciate all kinds of music and this is the most feminine album I've ever seen on this site. This sounds like something they would play at a suburban bar.

  • JP MIAMI

    HHDX FAILS at reviewing non-hiphop albums! Kevin S. Gary LOL at your review, its alright at least you tried, maybe you should stick to reviewing rick ross albums bro, like honestly. How can you possibly say that Congratulations was a "difficult second album." Dude are you nuts? I'm not defending the album because I'm a big fan or anything, I love music in general and it really gets to me when i see an ignorant review, you even contradicted yourself when you brought up "Lady DaDas Nightmare" you went from saying, "“Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” an atmospheric piece that fails to create any kind of atmosphere." but the you moved on to say "It’s clearly going for dark and spooky" how can you say what the song is going for if it does not create an atmosphere? LOL?! you obviously did not understand the point of the song, maybe because you're close minded and the song did not have any lyrics you just didnt understand the art in it, but even a fifth grader would understand that the song is, well "Lady Dadas Nightmare"? LOL I was actually even surprised that you gave the album a 3 since the review is a complete negative review. You said something negative about every single song except for "Siberian Breaks" or "Flash Delirium" which you probably did not understand nor mentioned, those two being the highlights of the album and Flash Delirium even being the first single of the album, WOW! Another FAIL. Then you went on to say "this album’s lyrical trend of confusion, disillusionment and cynicism." when you were talking about the song "It's Working", LOL! Guy the lines that say "how will I know if it's working right?" are obviously, but obviously talking about extacy! "But it's working in your blood", "My heart is racing, turn the noise on, I'd like to feed my poison" do you understand the song now? the song is clearly an extacy trip, its obvious you can feel it even in the instrumental. I alreay went deep enough to prove eveyone that Kevin S. Gary, I repeat Kevin S. Gary should either stick to reviewing Rick Ross and Plies or jump off a bridge, just because he fails doing his job, which equally means YOU FAIL AT LIFE.! OTHER THAN THAT, THE ALBUM DESERVES A 4.5 OUT OF 5 AND SINCE THERE IS NO 4.5 I WILL GIVE IT A 5. Peace out Hop-Hippers. JP, Miami, FL.

  • Perpetual Potion

    I think it is awesome that this site reviewed the album, even if I don't agree with it. This album is definitely a grower like any great album is. After at least 10 listens I am hearing new melodic ideas and layers. I feel like one must be able to appreciate music of the 60's to fully understand what these guys were trying to do. I highly suggest everyone pick up some records by the Velvet Underground, The Zombies, 13th Floor Elevators, and the Beach Boys

    • JP MIAMI

      HHDX FAILS at reviewing non-hiphop albums! Kevin S. Gary LOL at your review, its alright at least you tried, maybe you should stick to reviewing rick ross albums bro, like honestly. How can you possibly say that Congratulations was a "difficult second album." Dude are you nuts? I'm not defending the album because I'm a big fan or anything, I love music in general and it really gets to me when i see an ignorant review, you even contradicted yourself when you brought up "Lady DaDas Nightmare" you went from saying, "“Lady Dada’s Nightmare,” an atmospheric piece that fails to create any kind of atmosphere." but the you moved on to say "It’s clearly going for dark and spooky" how can you say what the song is going for if it does not create an atmosphere? LOL?! you obviously did not understand the point of the song, maybe because you're close minded and the song did not have any lyrics you just didnt understand the art in it, but even a fifth grader would understand that the song is, well "Lady Dadas Nightmare"? LOL I was actually even surprised that you gave the album a 3 since the review is a complete negative review. You said something negative about every single song except for "Siberian Breaks" or "Flash Delirium" which you probably did not understand nor mentioned, those two being the highlights of the album and Flash Delirium even being the first single of the album, WOW! Another FAIL. Then you went on to say "this album’s lyrical trend of confusion, disillusionment and cynicism." when you were talking about the song "It's Working", LOL! Guy the lines that say "how will I know if it's working right?" are obviously, but obviously talking about extacy! "But it's working in your blood", "My heart is racing, turn the noise on, I'd like to feed my poison" do you understand the song now? the song is clearly an extacy trip, its obvious you can feel it even in the instrumental. I alreay went deep enough to prove eveyone that Kevin S. Gary, I repeat Kevin S. Gary should either stick to reviewing Rick Ross and Plies or jump off a bridge, just because he fails doing his job, which equally means YOU FAIL AT LIFE.! OTHER THAN THAT, THE ALBUM DESERVES A 4.5 OUT OF 5 AND SINCE THERE IS NO 4.5 I WILL GIVE IT A 5. Peace out Hop-Hippers. JP, Miami, FL

  • 100Grand

    check out KUSH & REMY OFFICIAL VIDEO -TREEHOUSE FAMILY 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AKHh81Bzic

  • Logical_Choice

    This is a great album, not as immediate as their previous one, but still a good album and better than 80% of hip hip albums being released at the moment. OK its not a oure hip-hop album, but they have had some influence over hip-hip since they appeared, and in this day and age, the line is blurred anyway, most music genres cross over so I think its OK to review it on this site. Im sure a small number of narrow minded people will think its "gay" to have such an album reviewed here but no harm in trying to encourage people to broaden their horizons. Its not as if they have reviewed the latest Justin Beiber album!

  • DatNiggaJustin

    dope album imo. Who cares if its not hip hop. This album is better than any hip hop/rap album that been released in 2010 so far. Yall niggas need to broaden your horizons because not everything is about waka flaka lame and coochie mane

  • kjns

    "so a hiphop site reviews a rock album.. whats the harm? Rolling Stone gave 5* reviews to The Ecstatic and Cuban Linx II. expand yo horizons" Rolling Stone is a general music site, hiphopdx is not. great logic there!!! And R.S did not give 5 star reviews to any of those albums. i love all kinds of music, and prefer rock over rap, because most talent is required, but i don't come here for rock reviews, esp poorly writen ones.

    • ____

      yup I said 5* going off memory... but RS did rave about both of those albums if i'm not completely mistaken. In general though, RS is confused enough to think that Eminem and Wayne are the best hiphop has to offer... smh

    • Black Admiral

      Amen to that bruh...RS would never give a 5 to any hip hop album thats not Eminem...I produce rap and rock music this album is banging...If you like this look for UNKLE dame grease did stuff on there dope....

  • kushcloud9

    wtf is hiphopdx doing reviewing Mgmt albums? bad move imo. not because anytihng's wrong with MGMT...

  • Its Um

    I agree with people who thinks this shouldn't have been reviewed, if hip hop artist is not in it or have been in the past (remix do not count unless they did a video with them or was on the album). No review

    • JP MIAMI

      Pursuit Of Happiness, Kid Cudi Ft. MGMT But I do agree, this shouldnt have been reviewed here, it was a complete fail.

    • sloboogie

      Man these guys are nice they produced to beats for cudi's cd as well as blueprint 3 even though i throught that cd was overhyped. they also done other stuff. they got such a diffrent sound man i dont even think of them as rock or hip hop but there dope

  • akim

    music is music hhdx should do more defferent music reviews.It is good to expose your readers to all kinds of music.As for mgmt they try to be creative and i like that about them

  • kjns

    i don't come to hiphopdx for half assed reviews of crap rock albums. what the fuck is this doing here? Because a few rappers jumped on a remix?

    • __

      then don't click on it. so a hiphop site reviews a rock album.. whats the harm? Rolling Stone gave 5* reviews to The Ecstatic and Cuban Linx II. expand yo horizons

  • Gold Standard

    "Different is good" I thought this was a good album. 4.5/5

  • thizzle dance

    also impressed by DX reviewing Galactic

  • thizzle dance

    I also am surprised to see DX review MGMT's second album. but they are ill so good for you DX. As a longtime rap, rock, reggae, funk, you name it, fan I gotta comment. I think this reviewer and the people who agree with the review, like the comment below, have got it completely backwards. I was not surprised at all by this album it was actually what I had predicted and hoped for. You say they kinda abandoned the catchy tunes that got them radio play to do their own damn thing, and you're right, but I'm not surprised. I don't think it was meant to surprise or prove they are more than those radio hits, I had a strong feeling that this is what they wanted to do from the beginning. Half of the first album was incredibly catchy and straight enough for mainstream approval, yet not corny. The other half was wild psych hippie rock it was dope. When they said one of their biggest influences was Syd Barret era Pink Floyd, I knew they were goin in the opposite direction of pop after album one. This album is ill. The people who only liked the radio hits from Oracular Spectacular will hate this album, and the people who appreciated the rest of the Oracular Spectacular and maybe own a Pink Floyd album will be happy. MGMT has the kind of potential for rock greatness that J. Cole and Jay Elect have for rap greatness

  • sty

    fuck this bullshit, its for kids

  • C.

    spot on review. i think they are TRYING to surprise instead of just doing music but what do i know... im just a hip hop head. ha

  • kush nap

    the reviews always been the weakest part of the site. you guys gonna review coldplays next album since they worked with jay-z? why dont yall dont a review up for chief kamachis new album? if yall grasping for straws, dig deeper. looking forward to dx review of pinks next album. fuckin faggots.

    • Geno The King of Godz

      Good look Kush, I been sleepin on Reef 2, aint got shit new since feast or famine...U know if Charon Don dropped anything within the past yr?

    • kush nap

      yeah check that homie its called clock of destiny shits fire. reef got a album coming out soon, and he got his aotp album out. alls im saying dx is, if yall gonna start reviewing mgmt, get the hip hop records reviewed first. chief kamachi just dropped a heater and i aint seen shit about it.

    • Geno The King of Godz

      I fuxx wit MGMT, but Kush Nap, I aint know the Messiah Kamachi got a new joint, Def gotta check dat. U know if anyone else in the JuJu Mob dropped Kush?

    • Q88

      I respect your opinion, but I actually think it's a good thing for HHDX to review some albums outside of the genre of the site on the premise that other music outside of hip-hop influences hip-hop artists, therefore to me it's legitimate. Plus, I think it's good for the readers because it exposes them to artists you would generally not pay any mind to if you are a strict hip-hop head.

  • Q88

    I've been a fan of MGMT since the Time To Pretend-EP(pre-Oracular Spectacular) and have been keeping up with them since hence the "different" sound isn't unfamiliar to me. A lot of people will not like this album simply because it doesn't have the same radio friendly, poppy choruses as OS did, but it's a very complete album when listened to in it's entirety, I almost view the album as one long song which might be why I enjoy it. MGMT has said in interviews that their aim was to basically do the exact opposite of what the did on OS so at first listen it may be confusing and hard to take in, but I think in time people will put this album in the same category as OS in terms of creative genius.

  • Beanz

    I think it's kool HHDX reviewed this album. It's the only album with any rock influence I've been waiting for.

  • mikey d

    not much rap to review these days . everyone knows that all teh big name rappers wait till the 4th quarter to drop their projects this album is good. different is good.

    • Boomerang Slang

      there are some dope albums droppin in the next couple of months tho: reflection eternal, little brother, distant relatives, curren$y, drake, j. cole...

  • Geno The King of Godz

    kinda surprised to see HHDX review an MGMT album.