** - rating
Where to begin with the mess that is Congratulations, MGMT's sophomore effort? Baked in 70s and 80s cookie dough, these little nuggets are overflowing with ideas; psychedelia burning at the edges. It's a full-on embrace, the kind where you bend your leg just slightly, of folk-electronica. This is a good thing, sometimes, and a very very bad thing at other times.
The success of MGMT's first lp, Oracular Spectacular, hinged on tasty, wicked tracks like "Kids," "Weekend Wars" and "Time to Pretend"--beautiful and danceable synth morsels. The second half of that first record lacked the intensity of these tracks and opted for a more down-home, folksy approach. Fine. I respect a band who breaks a record in two. You know: side one is like this, side two is more this. It worked, for the most part, on Oracular.
What's happened on Congratulations, however, is far more ambitious: the marriage of wondrous dance synth-rawk and folk-electronica. David Bowie pulled this off now and again. MGMT really really wants to, but instead of coming off inventive, reworking song structures past the breaking point, a lot of the record sounds like Deep Breakfast's "Celestial Soda Pop."
I hate to even call these nine songs songs. The erratic first single "Flash Delirium" kind of says it all: here's a moment now it's gone, here's another, say goodbye, zoom zoom, boom, it's over, next, wham. It's frenetic, it's chaotic, it's abysmal to listen to.
Okay, I'll tell it true: there are some gems here. Like the songs themselves, though, the gems are only moments, glimpsed in a flash of brilliance, and gone. Like the weirdly affecting "Lady Dada's Nightmare." The keys place a gentle melody that builds slowly until the drums kick in and somebody or something howls. Very Meat Loaf, guys. Or album closer, "Congratulations," which does nothing special and does it well: it's the simplest, least musically wigged-out song on the record.
Congratulations certainly doesn't suffer from the oft-mentioned "sophomore slump." There're more ideas here than you can shake a stick at. Problem is there's no ground to hold the songs down. All the great ideas lumped into the record float away like someone cut up a picture of David Bowie and blew the shreds from their cupped hands into the windy Pacific.