MGMT’s New Album is Godawful

23 Mar

Yesterday, while I was busy working on this website, I listened to MGMT’s new album Congratulations, which they had decided to stream for free from their website after it got leaked on the internet. This isn’t so much a review as a snap judgment- I only listened to the album once and I don’t plan on doing it again. If you take a good long look at that wretched album art I think you can get a pretty good idea of what the record is like. It’s every bit as trippy and even more pretentious.

I’m not exactly an MGMT fan, but I do like to keep up to date with current music. They became popular here in the States while I was taking a semester abroad in Dublin, and by the time I returned “Time to Pretend” was dominating hipster iDocks alongside M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” I was skeptical, as I always am whenever a brand new indie band instantly becomes both a critical darling and radio sensation. But after I downloaded the album I decided the band had something going on- while the majority of Oracular Spectacular was nothing special, the three singles were masterworks of post-modern pop. Along with “Time to Pretend,” “Kids” and “Electric Feel” dominated my iPod for the better half of 2009. MGMT seemed to have a similar affliction as Depeche Mode- they could craft great singles, but when it came to filling the gaps between them to create a compelling album, the band didn’t seem capable. I hoped they would learn their lesson and follow up with a sophomore album made up entirely of “Time to Pretends.” Unfortunately, that is not the case.

There are literally no songs on Congratulations that seem worthy of gaining single status. I know that seems shocking, but there is nary a song that sounds even remotely similar to any of Oracular’s three singles. It’s as if the duo used “Weekend Wars” as the basis for their entire album and decided that their audience no longer needed to dance, or you know, enjoy themselves. Congratulations is a heartless quagmire that feels like a really, really bad mushroom trip. The album is intentionally “trippy,” so much so that I didn’t feel like I was listening to songs, but rather a drug addict’s idea of what a “trippy” Brian Eno-esque song should sound like. There’s even a song called “Brian Eno,” the lyrics of which seemed to be made up of the artists whining about how they will never be as cool or talented as Eno. The last song was an ambient bore that seemed to once again harken back to Eno- it ended randomly and I didn’t know whether it was a glitch in the website or if they had decided to be artsy. At that point I didn’t really care.

MGMT did exactly what any good band wouldn’t do- letting the success of their breakout debut go directly to their pompous heads. Instead of expanding on their original sound and refining it like other big indie bands such as The Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem, they decided to return to the drawing board and do something more “intellectual.” I can actually picture the two of them holed up in their Williamsburg recording studio, discussing how they hated how “mainstream” their first album was and how they wanted to go in an entirely new direction. Originality is never bad in music- but there’s nothing original about Congratulations.

Listen to it for yourself.

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