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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    MGMT’s Congratulations an acid-laden psychological thriller

    MGMT’s much-anticipated album Congratulations is undeniably fresh. Exactly how fresh is what makes it controversial. This acid-laden project oozes self-reference, as well as a regurgitation of older musical styles and motifs. Congratulations, a tweaked-out concept album, is the psychological vomit of MGMT, a band whose climb to fame was not only unexpected, but freakishly ironic.

    MGMT started out as a project between college buddies Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. The band released their Time to Pretend EP with a smattering of songs with a much heavier techno, electronica feel. By the time they had signed with Columbia Records and released debut album Oracular Spectacular, the duo had forged a danceable, psych-pop aesthetic that was infectiously catchy. The album was a huge success, both critically and financially.

    Suddenly MGMT were launched into the stardom they fantasized about in Oracular Spectacular. The Time to Pretend was over.

    Congratulations is a response to this newfound fame. Every song is a reference to this new identity, the shock of a dream realized — as well as the vacuous and desolate emotions that permeate their world. 

    The first track, “”It’s Working,”” begins with a cheesy guitar lick and synth whine, echoing the ridiculous album cover that listeners will likely connect to their first experience with the album. Furthermore, the harpsichord keyboard in the background is a blatant allusion to recycled music. The entire song is composed of references to other styles of music.

    From the first track, MGMT seem to be engaging in a dialogue with themselves and the music world. MGMT’s sound was anti-mainstream — their entire purpose was to be the defiant bohemians of the music world, fruitlessly hoping for an impossible future filled with cocaine, cars and fame. Yet, now that their worst cultural enemies are their biggest fans, MGMT find themselves positioned in the very seats they despised.

    This notion of success — but success outside their ultimate goal, not defying convention but rather defining it — is the main subject of the album, with songs like “”Flash Delirium”” and the title song “”Congratulations”” as homages to unexpected fame.

    Despite that, there are glittering gems on the album that will most likely be overlooked: “”Someone’s Missing”” and “”Siberian Breaks”” are varied and complicated songs that provide fresh stylistic changes. Other cuts like “”Song for Dan Treacy”” and “”Lady Dada’s Nightmare”” are less listenable, even annoying. Yet the purpose is clear: MGMT are invoking overused, hackneyed musical motifs to send a message to their listeners and their industry, asking, “”Is this what you want from us?””

    It’s an interesting concept that many MGMT fans will overlook or find upsetting because they simply want more songs like “”Electric Feel”” or “”Kids.””

    MGMT said Congratulations wouldn’t have hit songs like Time to Pretend. They admitted it would be stylistically different. And while the album is different and probably won’t be a huge hit, it’s a fascinating concept album for fans and those interested in what shape the indie genre is taking.

    MGMT

    Congratulations

    Sony Music

    Released April 13, 2010

    Grade A-

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