You can look at Congratulations, the second album from electro-psych weirdos MGMT, in one of two ways: brilliant headtrip of next-level synth-strangeness, or deliberate attempt by a band to undermine popularity and alienate its fanbase.
Good money’s on the latter. MGMT’s whimsical debut, Oracular Spectacular, contained plenty of demented, fractured funk-pop and keyboard acrobatics, but it also had the structure and sneaky pop hooks to make it accessible. The same can’t be said for the dreary Congratulations, which mashes burbling Krautrock, surf beats and cabaret-themed theatrics with haphazard, amorphous abandon.
- Beyond the Weekly
If anything, the album sounds like a soundtrack for a rundown theme park: The new-wave/twee-pop hybrid “It’s Working” sounds like someone failing at Pet Shop Boys karaoke, while the organ-seared fever dream “Song for Dan Treacy” is a carnival ride full of evil clowns blasting The Flaming Lips. “Flash Delirium” and “Brian Eno” aim for strident glitter-glam, but instead land somewhere in trembling anemia, while the goth-leaning instrumental “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” sounds like a boring church hymn.
At times the madness works: Hushed falsetto and plush keyboards make for pleasing bedfellows on “I Found a Whistle,” and moments of the 12-minute “Siberian Breaks”—with parts ripping off Belle & Sebastian and Stereolab—are solid. But Congratulations ultimately sounds like nothing more than a self-indulgent, half-baked collection of Of Montreal C-sides.