20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews MGMT’s Congratulations by crumblymuffin

20 Watts Reviews MGMT's Congratulations

PREVIEW: Visit MGMT’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 13/20

It was a tense buildup.  There were the negative reports on new songs live, the pretentious trash-talk, the name itself, and then of course the leak.  Today, the long-anticipated, and much-debated, follow-up from MGMT finally sees a release.  So what happened?  They didn’t take the easy route  continuing their resume of unbalanced albums of psychic freakouts and potential chart-toppers, for starters.  Instead, what has emerged is an uncompromising album of pop references and a determination to keep the music firmly rooted in the “left-field” territory.

You get the feeling that they’re not going back to “Kids” when they lead the album off with a guitar riff worthy of Paul Westerberg.  The album continues down that path, making nods to Television and the rest of the New York art-punk scene, as well as Brian Eno (also the name of one of the album’s highlights, a zany romp of harpsichord, organ and guitar) and company.  Tracks like “Flash Delirium” channel the disparity, building unbalanced segments into a captivating, but often perplexing whole.  The fascination for me lies, however, in the band’s newfound minimalism.  Oracular Spectacular tried to cram as many polyrhythms, noises and effects into each song.  Now, it’s almost as if they’ve shelved their penchant for texture in favor of an expedition into variants on song-craft.  No idea lasts for too long, and often bridges into what occasionally is a dead end.  However, when it works, it really works, especially on the captivating “I Found A Whistle,” which shimmers in a way that recalls the track “Kids” shining off the floor of a linoleum hallway from a distance.

It’s a gamble making an album this obtuse in the face of commercial demands.  There are thousands out there who just wanted 10 more tracks of “Time to Pretend” and an excuse to wear facepaint and feathers at a rock show.  Now, those kids have to come to terms with the fact they’re dealing with a pair of artists who wear their influences on their sleeves, and aren’t going to stay within one box for long.  For that, I guess I’ll have to say kudos , and give MGMT dues on a title they might have half-knowingly deserved all-along.  There’s a lot of beauty and a lot of exploration going on here, as well as a fair share of mistakes, but there’s also enough to keep you listening, and more than enough to beat the sophomore slump.  Now it’s just a matter of channeling that energy into a concise focus, and MGMT might emerge the pop starlets they’ve already insisted on making themselves.

-Dan Creahan


Man, your reviews are always SO GOOD.

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