MGMT — “Congratulations”

MGMT explod­ed onto the scene in 2008 with the fire­works that was Orac­u­lar Spec­tac­u­lar. And the two lead sin­gles, Time To Pre­tend and Kids kept licens­ing lawyers busy for months. Their dif­fi­cult sec­ond album Con­grat­u­la­tions arrived in April 2010, and telling­ly, the first thing they did was to announce that there wouldn’t be any sin­gles released from it. Any­one hop­ing for more of the same was clear­ly in for a disappointment.

The truth of the mat­ter is though, that those famous sin­gles weren’t actu­al­ly ter­ri­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the album as a whole. So Con­grat­u­la­tions, despite the dearth of obvi­ous sin­gles, car­ries on where Orac­u­lar left off. MGMT are what Boland and Bowie might have sound­ed like if they’d tak­en what they were doing in the first half of the sev­en­ties, and devel­oped it fur­ther into the sec­ond half.

Like most of the best music com­ing out of north Amer­i­ca at the moment, it’s steeped in the sounds and feel of the UK in the late sev­en­ties and ear­ly eight­ies. And, as with a lot of these bands, you have the dis­tinct feel­ing that if you were only able to pick up on half of the musi­cal ref­er­ences sly­ly allud­ed to here, you might very well enjoy the album almost a much as the peo­ple mak­ing it.

What lifts this album from the mere­ly clever to the thor­ough­ly infec­tious are the duo’s impec­ca­ble gift for melody. It’s almost as if they can’t help them­selves. Try as they might to knuck­le down and pro­duce some­thing seri­ous, those damn tunes keep burst­ing forth. Hence the con­fu­sion that exists on where they stand on the indie/pop axis.

What­ev­er about their imme­di­a­cy, these songs have a sat­is­fy­ing sense of hav­ing been con­scious­ly con­struct­ed. Someone’s Miss­ing takes a minute and three quar­ters to build up at 33 rpm, before its melody final­ly bursts forth at a joy­ous 45. And then, as quick­ly as it began, it’s over. Bri­an Wilson’s lega­cy lives on. Sim­i­lar­ly, the mon­u­men­tal feel to Flash Delir­i­um gives it an expan­sive sense of per­ma­nence. While Lady Gaga’s Nigh­ta­mare nods respect­ful­ly at The Smiths’ Last Night I Dreamt Some­body Loved Me, with­out ever tread­ing on its toes. And don’t be put off by Siber­ian Breaks’ 12 min­utes. It’s real­ly just a med­ley of three of four songs sewn togeth­er, and all the bet­ter for it.

In short, if you missed it first time around and you’re look­ing for some son­ic adren­a­lin, enjoy.

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