MGMT’s first album, 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, tore through the music scene at the time like a loose propeller. Before they knew what had hit them, bandmates Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden went from gigging in local clubs and bars around New York to playing massive music festivals alongside greats such as Radiohead and Bloc Party to crowds of tens of thousands of screaming fans.
Three years later, the singles “Time To Pretend”, “Kids”, and “Electric Feel” still get dance floors jumping with happy, wasted people, belting out “Let’s move to Paris, shoot some heroine and fuck with the stars” while spilling their drinks over anyone unfortunate enough to be standing nearby.
Oracular Spectacular is one of those rare albums that is almost impossible not to like, no matter what your taste in music might be. Of course, the big question on everyone’s mind was ‘With such a killer debut album (well, technically it’s their second if you count the album they released under their previous name, The Management), haven’t they set the bar a little too high for the albums to follow?”
Sadly, the answer to this question in the case of Congratulations is yes.
Gone are the slow, fuzzy and infectious basslines and quirky riffs that made songs like “Kids” and “Time To Pretend” so powerful. Nowhere on Congratulations will you find a song that struts with the confidence that “Electric Feel” does, or trips out, stoned immaculate like “The Youth” without sounding forced or contrived.
Congratulations feels frantic in comparison to Oracular Spectacular. Songs like “It’s Working”, “Song For Dan Treacy” and “Brian Eno” all sound like Goldwasser and VanWyngarden wrote them after schnarfing one too many speed-rails while listening to old Beach Boys records at double speed.
The rest of the album is mostly made up of sluggish and floppy tracks like “Someone’s Missing” (with vocals that sound like a melancholic chipmunk singing at the bottom of a well), “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” (four and a half minutes of pointless instrumental circle-jerking) and “I Found A Whistle” (which sounds like a waltzy crystal meth comedown) that sure as hell won’t be topping any charts in the foreseeable future.
On the plus side, the awesome synths on “Song For Dan Treacy” should get your feet tapping and the Jackson 5-ish break on “Something’s Missing” is an interesting twist. “Siberian Breaks” also has some notable moments, but you’ll have to wade through all twelve odd minutes of this sprawling track to get to them.
In their defence, I don’t think that MGMT ever intended Congratulations to be compared in any way to Oracular Spectacular and seem to have made a concerted effort musically to distance the two albums as much as possible. Of course the downside of this is that the mainstream audience that loved Oracular Spectacular will probably greet Congratulations with the time-honoured cry “What is this shit?” halfway through track one.
At its best, Congratulations feels like a bad B-Sides album and at its worst, like something that Goldwasser and VanWyngarden should have maybe thought a little harder about before ever recording, never mind releasing.
From it’s bizarre, cartoony, Sonic The Hedgehog album cover to its rushed production, Congratulations should definitely not be taken seriously. In fact, let’s pretend that this album was never released, play Oracular Spectacular one more time and hang in there for album no. 3 shall we?
Final Verdict: 4/10