MGMT-MGMT

MGMT could have ruled the world. There was a time when Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser had a vise grip on pop culture, when smash singles “Kids” and “Electric Feel” and “Time To Pretend” had reached such a saturation point that all the world’s radio playlists, TV ads, and music festival playbills seemed to have merged into some kind of inescapable, undeniable MGMT singularity. They were everywhere, and they deserved to be everywhere. Oracular Spectacular, the 2008 debut album that spawned those singles (plus the great “Weekend Wars,” which wasn’t an official single but easily could have been), was the kind of blockbuster we rarely see anymore, the kind stacked with hit after hit after hit — a Hotel California, a Thriller, a Jagged Little Pill. OK, maybe not Thriller; the second half of Oracular Spectacular was far too ridden with psychedelic strangeness to match up with a record that yielded seven top-10 singles. But the first half of MGMT’s debut was such a pop triumph that they seemed all set to become that twenty-first century rarity: a superstar rock band.

MGMT never seemed that interested in superstardom, though. That much was evident at Bonnaroo 2009, when I foolishly opted to watch the group’s late-night set and miss most of Nine Inch Nails’ “farewell” performance. I’ve made a lot of stupid choices in my life, but that was one of my dumbest ever, even now that NIN is back in business; it was “Head Like A Hole” dumb. MGMT’s show was disjointed, detached, and underwhelming. When they launched into one of the hits, it was enjoyable enough, but even those lacked oomph, as if MGMT was shuffling through them out of obligation. The band seemed more focused on indulging in stringy, acid-fried Syd Barrett tributes than whipping a tent full of adoring fans into blissful unification.

So when Congratulations came out in 2010, it was disappointing but not surprising. The record did away entirely with the synth-laden pop-rock manna MGMT had become known for, focusing instead on the record-nerd curiosities that bogged down Oracular Spectacular’s back half. In word and deed, the album paid tribute to post-punk oddity Dan Treacy and ambient mastermind Brian Eno. “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” was a fitting title. This was a willfully strange turn, the kind of mainstream-spurning gesture that marked Pearl Jam’s flight from ubiquity. If their interviews are to be believed, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser weren’t trying to run from fame so much as chase their muse, which happened to be headed down a rabbit hole. And if Pitchfork’s description of a sea of Oracular-era headbands at a recent MGMT show is any indicator, that relentless commitment to artistic honesty has them in the uncomfortable (though still quite profitable) position of packing humongous venues with fans and sending them home disappointed.

I remember Congratulations as a difficult record, but returning to it today, I’m struck by how melodic and approachable those songs are. The likes of “Flash Delirium” and “It’s Working” aren’t streamlined radio-killers, but they’re jammed with more hooks than they know what to do with, and they brim with energy as they zoom along. Removed from the context of such breathless expectation, the album is actually pretty fun — a biplane joyride with its head in the clouds, capped off by “Congratulations,” a lovely parachute drift back to solid ground. It’s completely dispensable, but it has its charms.

If that seems like rose-colored hindsight on MGMT’s second record, well, it’s only because the band’s third record is ugly as mud. The self-titled collection ups the ante on its predecessor’s weirdness, trading naive melody for nauseous mood, attempting to capture a full psychedelic spectrum but instead blurring into gnarly browns and grays. If Congratulations is a rabbit hole, MGMT is a K-hole, the kind of bleary-eyed excursion the stoners from your college dorm might have cooked up for dessert after a hearty mushroom feast. Rather than shrugging their shoulders at stardom, the duo now appears to be actively scaring fans away, although in reality it’s probably more like they’re tuning out the fans entirely. Rather than the fearsome roar of album-length middle fingers like Yeezus or In Utero, it’s a retreat to the cavernous recesses of their minds — and of their record collections. “Introspection” is the anthem, get your damn hands back in your pockets.

It’s not a complete shitshow. MGMT is full of intriguing ideas, ideas that might have added up to an exciting record if they ever seemed to be part of the same equation, a pile of half-baked creations from fully baked creators. This is some serious studio-rat shit, an album of textures that would have enhanced great songs presented instead as songs in and of themselves. It’s like that Doldrums record from last year, only even less tethered to the concept of melody. Many of the soundscapes here could pass as movie scores, particularly closer “An Orphan Of Fortune,” a glacial grimace that sounds like an old, disintegrating Cocteau Twins cassette, and “Astro-Mancy,” a skittering dystopian drone. “A Good Sadness,” “I Love You Too, Death,” and “Plenty Of Girls In The Sea” are all better Animal Collective songs than most of the Centipede Hz tracklist, but their pleasures are few and fleeting. “Cool Song No. 2″ is only kind of cool and only kind of a song. “Mystery Disease” imagines the worst possible outcome of the Pink Floyd+DJ Shadow combination that supposedly spawned OK Computer. Singles “Alien Days” and “Your Life Is A Lie” are brisk enough to pass for Congratulations B-sides but are as inessential as that description suggests.

The whole thing plays like B-sides, actually, and not tight-as-fuck reward-your-superfans B-sides. It’s meandering music from musicians who can afford to meander. Despite the promise inherent in its component parts, MGMT is flightier and less satisfying than Congratulations. It makes that spacey second half of Oracular Spectacular — an LP side that got most of its spins because listeners aimlessly left their iTunes running while studying for their organic chemistry midterms — seem as effervescent and approachable as the hits that preceded it. I’d keep grasping for outside reference points, but this band that could have ruled the world seems increasingly content to remain a world unto itself. Fair enough; MGMT isn’t obliged to cater to anybody. But if they’re going to keep releasing records like MGMT, they might end up in a vacuum for real. Their target audience — themselves — might be the only ones left listening.

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Comments (107)
  1. I think you’re doing a disservice to the second half of Oracular Spectacular – it didn’t have the same hits that the first half did, but everything on it was still excellent and worthwhile (“Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” is especially good) and if Congratulations (which I still liked decently enough) had kept that up it wouldn’t have been a disappointment at all (especially when I hoped it would be a detour, rather than the beginning of a sharp descent in MGMT’s trajectory). You’re right about this album though – it’s terrible. I thought “Your Life is a Lie” was mediocre the first time I heard it, but compared to the rest of the album it’s a godsend. I couldn’t believe that I’d listened to 4 different songs by the time it started, the way they all droned together, and nothing that came afterwards was any better. It really is indefensible shit.

    • Your point about “Your Life Is A Lie” is a good one. It reminds me of when Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” came out and we all hoped it would be the worst song on the Green Album, but then the album dropped and it turned out to be the best.

      • but not better than Island in the Sun

      • I strongly contend that “O Girlfriend” is a classic :)

      • What I found so interesting about this article, is that I’m not sure if you forgot or just never knew, but MGMT were not like this big blog hype, critically loved internet band when Oracular Spectacular came out in “08. There was nothing being written about them the way there was when like Vampire Weekend, or Animal Collectives MPP came out. In fact the first I remember ever hearing about them was in a really short Pitchfork review of CMj and they basically just said something like, ” This band is terrible, and this is evidence as to why major labels are failing.” Shortly after they gave their album a pretty low rating, and that was it for a while. The didn’t become popular until long after the record was released.

        All the big blogs of that time period Hipster Runnoff, Brooklyn Vegan, Idolator, Gorilla vs Bear. I don’t remember any of them really mentioning them. Even Stereogum didn’t really have much to say about them. During the time period MGMT was blowing up. The internet was busy writing about bands like Vampire Weekend, and Vivian Girls, Hercules and Love Affair was huge around that time. If you were just reading those blogs that I mentioned, you would have barely known that MGMT existed. I think Time to Pretend was was only ranked like 30 or something in Pitchforks year end single list. I don’t think there was any mention of the album in the year end list.

        The first time I remember blogs actually start writing about them was after they became big. And it was more along the lines of “This band sucks, how on earth did they become so big?” I remember reading post after post like this on Hipster runoff and Brooklyn Vegan especially. Drowned And Sound and some post like this. Tiny Mix Tapes certainly didn’t like them.

        My point being that if MGMT had kept going with the sound from the first record, I imagine the band they would most resemble would probably be Panic At The Disco. And i’m not exactly sure what you mean by taking over the world, but I don’t think of a band like Panic At The Disco as “ruling the world.” I think their best case scenario would be to be like a band like Coldplay, or Mumford and Sons, but even those bands I don’t think of as Ruling The World. I think you have to have some sort of critical admiration as well mainstream popularity to rule the world. I would say Nirvana ruled the world, but certainly not Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit.

        In my opinion MGMT has always wanted to be liked by critics the way bands like Animal Collective and Deerhunter are. And I think with this album their probably a lot closer to that, than if they would have made something that sounds like Passion Pit. I also just don’t think they listen to the kind of music that would allow them to make songs like kids anymore. If I had to guess, they probably spend a lot more time reading sites like Tiny Mix Tapes or Ad Hoc, than they do Stereogum.

        Which makes their case even more interesting because I would imagine most of the people who spend time on those sites still think of MGMT as “that joke band who had those cheesy synth pop hits” When they are the ones who would probably appreciate this stuff, and the people who liked Kids shouldn’t even be attempting to listen to this.

    • Fully agree. “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” was the best song on the first album too. If MGMT want to make music that people want to hear, they need to stop being making boring music (you can only hear that guy sing, and sing, and sing, etc, there’s no actual melody or interesting twist and turns anywhere).

  2. First Spin. Now Stereogum. Wonder what Pitchfork will say about this album next week. Not sure what people want from MGMT. I dig the album a lot. Can’t wait for my copy to come in the mail on Tuesday.

  3. oh hey, another Yeezus reference, whatayaknow?!

  4. I really hated Congratulations at first, but eventually I grew to like it (maybe even better than Oracular Spectacular.) I also really hate the self titled so far, but maybe it will grow on me in the same way. Orrrrr, maybe it really is shit.

    • I hated MGMT at first, now they’re my favorite band. All of their albums took time. Now I know all of them by heart. This album at first wasn’t my favorite, then with time I saw how amazing it was. It’s a great album, I just think people aren’t really taking time to sit, close your eyes, and melt to it. Start to finish it’s a great album.

  5. I’m still hopeful for the record, and would be even more so if someone who truly enjoyed Congratulations and didn’t write off the back half of OC (some great songs on that back half, minus a couple of clunkers) wrote a review.

    i am however a bit afraid that the writer is going to end up spot on here :|

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  7. Haven’t listened to it yet because on principle I ignore albums that are only first available via a corporate tie-in. What a shot in the foot. Can you imagine how many people were introduced to this album by not bothering to sign up with Rdio and just browsing the clips?

    Anyway, I’ll check it out eventually, but my suspicions upon hearing “Alien Days” seem confirmed. “Brown and grey.” That’s what I thought, too. I really liked Congratulations, but for some reason I’m not inclined to afford these guys the same understanding that I would a group that were doing all of this in a more DIY way — a band without the legions of headbands and Hollywood/Ticketmaster types that want to love them and pay them and listen to their complaining.

  8. There it is! Another Yeezus reference!

  9. If we’re gonna start making Centipede Hz references, please keep in mind that there is more creativity, sincerity and actual musicianship in “Applesauce” than on this entire slog of an album.

  10. eh. can’t win ‘em all. or, in MGMT’s case, any of them.

  11. I would agree that this review is a premature evaluation. It’s getting a little ridiculous; all these negative reviews are sounding more like personal attacks. I don’t know Ben or Andrew, but I don’t think it’s fair to call them “fully baked creators” and their work “studio-rat shit.” From interviews I’ve seen of them on youtube, they seem like the coolest people you could possible meet and I can tell by the way they think that they are very intelligent. And this album has TOTALLY blown me away. I feel like I am watching an artist reach their full potential, a creative explosion of sound and emotion. As someone who is very well versed in classic rock and electronic music, I feel like I am seeing the birth of an artist who’s legacy can rival that of the Beatles. …well, no one can rival the Beatles, ever. But if Paul McCartney loves MGMT, than that’s saying something about the quality of their music.

    …..Chris. I think your life is a lie.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Here’s to hoping that other publications will address the art and not attack the creators. Another great album by one of the best bands around. Critics didn’t understand Congratulations when it came out, but now they finally respect it. I’m sure the same will happen here.

    • This. This comment is the only one that isn’t stupid.

  12. Sadly I am sure you agreed with the other critics when you had your first views on their second album Congratulations. First impressions seem to be everything to a person, yet no one gives the mind a chance to alter their feelings about things. Just like your one track mind, and I’m sure Alfred Soto’s (writer of Spins review on this album) you listened to it briefly and regurgitated words onto a paper trying to do your job of writing album reviews. Too bad you didn’t read more into MGMT’s thoughts of this album. Of course if you had you would have known, quote on quote MGMT wasn’t trying to produce an album everyone was going to understand at first listen. Instead of slandering their name, and giving all other listeners a constructed mindset on what to think of the album the first time they hear it, you should give it a chance. When your mind can fully wrap around their idea, and concept behind this album I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is a great album that will stand to be great for generations to come. Some day you’ll come to see that this is a “difficult” album, but only a difficult album that in time you will revisit and be struct by it’s overlapping melodies of musically inclined genius composers. Known as MGMT.

  13. People are still pissed that they never wrote another song like “Time to Pretend.” They will still be pissed about that ten years from now when MGMT are on album #8.

    “They totally threw away their careers by refusing to write songs that sound just like the first song on their first album forever.”

    I’m not the biggest fan of CONGRATULATIONS but it was nevertheless an album that took some guts to pull off. I’ll give this one a try, too.

    • The only problem is “Time to Pretend” is one of the best songs of the past 15 years or so. Beautiful melody, relevant message to anyone under 30, and in general just a great song. I get that it’s unfair to expect them to rewrite “Kids,” but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want MGMT to do what they were so good at on their first album (this coming from someone who loves Congratulations). At the end of the day, you can’t just drag fans on in a completely new direction if the music isn’t good, there are tons of fans willing to follow the artist if they deliver in a bold new way (Kid A comes to mind). MGMT have yet to pull this off.

      • Well, they said in interviews around the time CONGRATULATIONS came out that they didn’t think they’d ever write more songs like those because they were the first songs the group had ever written back when they were depressed college students and they didn’t want to go back to that mindset. I loved “Time to Pretend” as well, but at some point it becomes similar to asking Liz Phair to make another album like GUYVILLE – tank’s empty, time to move on.

        • I agree you can’t ask artists to stay in the same place emotionally in order to deliver material like they had in the past, but I also think you can’t demand listeners and critics to necessarily engage their new identity because it’s healthier for the artist but doesn’t work well for the music, as terrible as that might sound. i don’t wish bad things on these guys, but whenever this gets brought up by fans all I can think of asking is “so I should have to like this because they are happy now?”

          I think with MGMT there’s a lot of hyperbole going both ways. I think critics tend to exaggerate the drop in quality because of the expectations they have for them. But I also believe fans tend to overpraise their work. I mean, it’s expected, it’s fans, of course it’s gonna happen, because you have this natural identification with this band, and whatever consensus is building around them is not necessarily what you will feel about them with there’s a previously established strong connection. But at the same, it’s not fair to expect people who were floored with Time To Pretend to wish that could’ve lasted longer, or that least the new phase sounded as inspired and fresh and captivated them in the same way that song did.

          I’m not dissing MGMT, but I think the dissonance between loyal fans, ambivalent listeners and critics is understandable and expected at this point.

  14. As someone who thought that their 2009 Roo set was GENIUS, I have no idea where to start with this article. Sigh.

  15. I enjoyed Oracular Spectacular as an instant classic, but one might admit that Congratulations is closer to what MGMT had in mind in the long term for their music… I really cherish Congratulations, this is a messy yet fantastic record. I am not sure they gonna lose me with this one.

  16. I really don’t understand why they would have someone with such negative feelings towards MGMT write the review…. Anyway I never really understood the response to congratulations I mean I understood how the MOST commercial audience would view it as “too weird”, but for people who listen to relatively “interesting” music the album really wasn’t that weird.
    It was completely musical and not built on dissonance or noise. I could see people either liking or not liking the album I was just surprised that a lot of the stereogummish type of audience felt out weirded by it, when to me it wouldn’t even earn a “wierd” ranking among other albums considered weird. Just because it didn’t have any true singles really, didn’t mean the sound was coming way out of left field, it was just weird enough to be interesting and to not be on the radio and in my opinion it was a good album as a whole. I pre-ordered this one and am waiting on it to listen to it so I chime in on the self-titled album yet.

  17. Seems kinda personal

  18. All I’ve ever wanted from MGMT was a record that built on the second side of Oracular Spectacular.

  19. I’ll never forget seeing Oracular-era MGMT get absolutely blown off the stage by (at the time) barely-known Yeasayer’s opening set.
    Easily the most brutal upstaging i’ve ever witnessed at a show — an opener starting with sparse interest & converting an entire room to true believers, followed by people leaving in droves throughout the headliner’s set. By the time they got to the karaoke-bullshit version of “Kids” it was 2/3 empty.

    It’s probably colored my view of the band since, but they consistently strike me as the emperor with no clothes. Rejecting commercial pop, in favor of…. what exactly?
    They seem as unsure as their disappointed fans.

  20. Oh man… You really missed the boat on this one Chris. This album is a unique, forward thinking sonic world overflowing with musical and artistic sophistication and all you hear is “browns and greys”? That is astonishing to me were you listening on broken laptop speakers or is your head just too far up your own ass with the tired “they could’ve ruled the world” narrative that you can’t appreciate it for what it is?

    MGMT will continue making unique envelope pushing albums and every time hack internet critics will prematurely ejaculate into their own hands and call it “too weird” in the context of Kids etc.
    Heard it all before man!

    Try to listen to this record on it’s own merits and you might see that it’s their best work to date. “A Good Sadness” alone is more musically sophisticated than anything 99% of bands are capable of producing. The melodies are beautiful on this record!

  21. Great review and spot-on about everything. This is an awful indulgent album that goes absolutely nowhere and I can’t believe that the majority of the comments here are defending it. What’s there to defend? There’s no melody, no purpose, no drive to any of this.

    If MGMT hadn’t wanted to become electro-pop figureheads, then they shouldn’t have thrown out those three big electro-pop singles in the first place. Nobody forced them to. They just wanted to reap the benefits, then do a 180 and goof off for the rest of their career. Why are people surprised when listeners get upset that the band isn’t making music that made them popular? MGMT could have easily compromised and gone for the psychedelic stuff while still, you know, making listenable tunes? Instead they’re just trolling.

    • I… I agree. I mean, I don’t know if they’re trolling or not, but you’re damn right about this music having no purpose or drive. Downvotes be damned.

      • Downvotes are annoying, but it goes with the territory. Getting downvoted for your own taste is a badge of honor because it shows that a person isn’t going into the populist tide. I’ve learned though not to slag off other bands, but to state my objection to them tastefully. If a person wants to downvote them, have fun. I’m sure there a thousand bands I hate and love at the same time and nobody is going to agree with my choices. Downvoters are typically elitist hipster music snobs or Dick Littman drunk :P Haha just kidding. Love that guy.

  22. I still can’t believe Radiohead never wrote another “Creep.” Indulgent bastards. I think they owe an apology to all us fans for everything post-Pablo Honey.

    • The difference is Radiohead convinced an audience to go along with them by making consistently excellent albums with high quality songwriting.

    • Not a fair comparison at all. Because not only did Radiohead kept evolving with each album, but I never got a sense they couldn’t have done another Creep if he wanted to. The band just moved on, but picking up from where they left off. They progressed from Pablo Honey to The Bends to Ok Computer quite organically. Whenever I see or read MGMT interviews, I always have the feeling that, as much as they truly love the direction they are in now, they also actively avoid what they did in the past, because it came from a place they don’t feel comfortable going to now. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, but it’s somewhat different than Radiohead’s no-fucks-given attitude.

      • Yeah of course it’s not a complete analogy in all those ways, but it’s clear that MGMT made an artistic choice for themselves a long time ago and how can you fault them so heavily for that? Just because you don’t like it as much? Seems totally asinine, especially to people who actually enjoy the more psychedelic, non-pop direction they’ve taken. To each their own, but MGMT is not responsible to any of us. That is totally naive to think that and yet that’s what so many comments here are essentially saying. It’s not like they are compromising their artistry in major ways to force a pop song that will make them “take over the world.” There’s nothing worse than bands trying to write hit pop songs for the sake of pleasing their fans or their pocketbook.

        • But the thing is, as much as they are not responsible to any of us, we aren’t responsible to any of them either. Even if you try to get in the same wavelength they are in, doesn’t mean people’s views on how successful they might be in pulling it off won’t vary. People are not obligated to like an artist out of sense of duty or obligated loyalty for loving their early work. No one is obligated to automatically embrace any change an artist goes through, especially if they don’t feel it’s successful.

          I could see that point if it was some form of biased rejection (and might be in a few cases), but I don’t think that it’s mostly rooted in automatic intolerance like people have said, because I have seen a lot of people that wanted to like their new direction, but aren’t feeling it. It doesn’t invalidate their opinions just because MGMT chose a riskier path and some fans liked it. It also doesn’t make them Radiohead, even for the sake of building an argument, to be honest and with all due respect.

          In fact, I often find the hyperbole in trying to compensate the critical rejection they have been facing lately to be even more extreme and biased when it comes to judging the early reactions. Again, I kinda like MGMT, but in this page alone someone compared them to “the birth of The Beatles”. I think I’m pretty reasonable when I say, COME ON…

  23. maybe finally people will realize this is not a band that want sot make radio-friendly pop music and those of us who love bizarre psychedelia can enjoy them in piece in the smaller clubs where their sound will be better heard

    • Thank you.

      “NO MOAR KIDZ??”

      Yeah these guys wrote time to pretend and kids back in 2005, maybe even earlier.
      Who would have thought?! They’ve progressed as musicians and moved on to different ideas?! NO WAY!

      You want a band that makes the same song over and over? Mumford & Sons is waiting for you…

      This album is some of MGMT’s best work yet. So textural and heavy. I love it.

  24. I’m rooting for you, MGMT.

  25. Respectfully Chris, I think you’ve vastly overrated– and overstated the importance of– the debut album. It has 2 very catchy singles (with vapid, self-regarding lyrics) and one decent single (Electric Feel) but the rest is whimsical, indulgent sub-Flaming Lips nonsense and one of the worst things Dave Fridmann put his name to. So for me Congratulations was a breath of fresh air, but I still won’t rush to get this based on all the thumbs-downs.

    • Personally I thought that their debut album was a great balance, where you had immensely catchy and well written songs balanced by a darker more arty second half. In a way, it was kind of like Bowie’s “Low” for the noughties. Every song grabbed you in some way and even though “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” are overplayed to death, they skirt that great balance of art and pop…just like Bowie’s “Low” record. “Congratulations” was still a winner, but its continual reward value diminished with each listen because it doesn’t have the cohesion ( or the songs) to make it stand out. I’m sure most critical consensus is the same for both of my points. But each fan to his own taste.

      • Oracular Spectacular might have a lot of variety, but it’s no Thriller, and not even a Jagged Little Pill. That comparison in the review is just nuts. Low’s an interesting analogy. Personally I feel it doesn’t have the emotional depth or musical originality for the whole album to be held up in that company 20 years from now– time will tell. Oracular to me sounds like classic psychedelia being funnelled through an ironic, self-consciously wacky Day-glo filter; Congratulations is just pure fun without the detachment.

  26. So harsh! When songwriters rise to fame by pumping out unique pop tunes, I can understand why most people would be upset that they don’t continue to set the pop curve. Still, “studio-rat shit”?!?! We want people to push the boundaries. Putting yourself out on a limb is admirable, whether you fail or succeed. In this case, I definitely don’t think they failed. I am intrigued.

    Yes, they can afford to meander. So did The Beatles. That’s how we eventually ended up with Sgt. Pepper’s. They were rich assholes indulging themselves in a studio and upped the game for everyone.

    I don’t know where to begin on this one… I saw them at fyf and this is my opinion. they were boring as shit when they played their hits. They probably had played them out of obligation, if anything, because they do care about their fans and played songs that they are personally, mentally over. when they hit on the new songs, they kept the same energy and it fit! the new songs were interesting and their energy didn’t seem misplaced.

    if the album is shit, then its shit. Still I think your judgement is clouded by expectations.

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    • Bro.

      Bruh.

      BRAJ.

      I’m sure you’ve probably listened to The Management. They put out that badass fucking jam called “The Kidz” when we were freshmen in sailing quallege and you had it ready to fucking GO to get the pussy drippin’. I was there. We all used that trick.

      But here’s the thing. The Management aren’t subject to your wants, needs, or desires. They don’t make records for you or your mediocre weed that you thought you smoked (it was pencil shavings) while listening to ‘Congratulations’. Did you actually listen to ‘GRATZ’ or were you imagining that, too? Revisit it. Totes worth it.

      Point being, you either need to get another weed dealer or keep reading Rolling Stone because the brilliance of this record is beyond you. You’re an analog player in a digital world, bruh. Time to upgrade! (your weed. Seriously, though. It smells like mulch and if I can’t get a contact high through the comment section then what the cock am I doing?)

  28. I’ll preface this by saying I really enjoy Congratulations for the most part, but for this album it sounds like there are a few moments that are worth savoring but otherwise it does sound meandering and unsatisfying. This could change with more listens, but honestly what I’ve heard doesn’t really encourage me to go back and listen to any or most of it again. If this is the music they want to make, who am I to say not to, but this album just doesn’t really connect with me. Sorry, MGMT.

    • I really appreciate how you went about your review of the album. Very tasteful, not rude at all. It’s 100% okay when people don’t enjoy certain albums or music but most of the time they don’t have the class you’ve shown here. Hope the album grows on you!

  29. I really really wanted to like this album (and I really do enjoy the sonics of the tracks and the production), but the songs just aren’t there. If you’re going to go off into psychedelia, write some songs to justify the direction. Congratulations was really good, but I can’t help but feel that on this album they should have at least circled back to their first record a little bit.

  30. I unfortunately can’t disagree with this reviewer. While there are some nice ideas tucked under layers of irritating synthesizers, there’s just no sense of direction to this music. At least they gave us one masterpiece. More than many other bands can say.

    • Well written review Chris. Love MGMT’s first album and attempted to embrace the willful artful weirdness of “Congratulations” which had some charms ( and you pointing out the singles was cool, as they are really well crafted) but I’m divided how I feel about this record, based on a quick impression.
      The production is certainly novel and fulfilling as a type of sonic head trip, but the songs…really are not songs. If you can strip music to a guitar and a voice and be carried by it, then you’ve succeeded. If not…then production is your crutch. I personally am going to give the album more time to be a grower.
      Only time will rally tell how it holds up, but if anything, Capitol Records let them put this out which is interesting since they were totally freaked out by the willful weirdness of “Congratulations”.
      At least we always have “Oracular Spectacular” which was the perfect hybrid of weirdness and songs. Hope they come back to that happy middle ground.

  31. You write about “record nerds” and “stoners in your college dorm” as if those aren’t the people who enjoy MGMT’s music. It’s ok if you’re not in those categories, but don’t dismiss song (like those on Oracular) for being weird, psychedelic stuff. They’re definitely a weird, psychedelic band and those songs greatly outnumber the poppier hits across all three albums. I’m not sure what you were expecting them to make on this one…?

    • How about an album so trippy you don’t get the lyrics until many years later, when aliens have visited your planet and are aligning with a world government. Soon after, everyone is placed in death camps for a disease outbreak, and no ones really sure what it is (if there even is one). You have a dream where you confront your future self and he tells you that everything you have ever experienced in your life was created by you from shifting through parallel realities at billions of frames per second, and that you have to run away because the governmental virus outbreak turns out to be a lie. You awaken with I note you wrote in your sleep saying “i told you so”. With shattering new beliefs, you tell your wife and your friends, no one believes you. Understanding more and more freaky shit, you run from everyone. It’s alright though because you hear the voice of your future self intuition, telling you where to go and keeping you alive. You face a near death experience and are fully ok with what you later know as the afterlife. You find solitude at an intelligent commune filled with female linguistics. Where you become the leader. And after you are all safe, you will hear your new lover playing that old MGMT self titled album.

  32. Is this noise what the kids are listening to these days? You brats can have your MGMTs and Radioheads and The Strokers, I’ve got the Bobby Fuller Four Baby!!! (I then snap my suspenders and resume swiveling my hips to “Let Her Dance”)

  33. I have to agree with the folks who are claiming that your “premature evaluation” is just that: premature. This album needs time to breathe. It requires multiple listens; Andrew and Ben have said as much in interviews, and since they are the creators, I would take their word for it. I have listened to the album at least 10 times through now, and I promise you that I’ve had to rethink which tracks are my “favorites” with each new listen. As the songs grow on you, nuances in the sounds combined with the lyrics present themselves. It’s fascinating, really. I can’t say that I’ve had a comparable experience with many other albums. “Gnarly browns and grays”? What a misguided way to sum up this album. Give it another chance if you can.

    Like it or not, the band has evolved into something they’re more confident in being while still managing to push the envelope. Congratulations was completely misunderstood and I am having a feeling that MGMT is going that direction too. What a shame.

  34. Let’s face it: I *like* a fair share of MGMT’s music (I thought the second half of Oracular was rather expendable and even liked Congratulations more), but these guys are complete assholes. I’ve seen them twice (2010 in Boston, 2013 at this now infamous Artpark show) and they were horrible both times. Either spiteful toward the audience or so stoned (or simply self-indulgent) that they could not regard the audience the entire time. The latter time the only thing lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden said to the crowd was “Everybody get stoned” before the last song. They played for 30 minutes and then left.

    Long story short: I like some of their songs but think they are indulgent, mediocre musicians with no excitement for their craft or regard for their audience. This new stuff is so commercially unfriendly as to be obvious. The person who called these one-hit wonders the new Beatles is an utter maniac. These guys are also-rans and they know it.

    • at least they beat the shit out of most other painfully boring and wimpy indie music these days

    • Look if you want an interaction with the band, go to a meet and greet. They are there to play the music they wrote for you. They’re not going to go around and ask you what your favorite ice cream flavor is. If you want something like that go see a club DJ. He will tell you to “put your hands up” and all that other shit. The first time I saw MGMT at the US Open, they were a little sloppy. Performance wise I’d say 6/10. I saw them less than a month ago and they were 10/10! They’ve really grown and improved sound wise.

      You go to a live show to hear the music you love. . . LIVE. You don’t go to see some hidden gem or have the band hype up the audience. It’s about music appreciation, not starting the biggest party you’ve ever seen.

  35. Judging by the amount of (mostly unimpressed) disussion…”all press is good press?”

  36. I hated MGMT at first, now they’re my favorite band. All of their albums took time. Now I know all of them by heart. This album at first wasn’t my favorite, then with time I saw how amazing it was. It’s a great album, I just think people aren’t really taking time to sit, close your eyes, and melt to it. Start to finish it’s a great album.

  37. If you haven’t heard it before – it really helps to have a first listen where you think it will be utter shit!

    Then it’s a nice surprise (sounds a bit like Foxygen if they spaced the fuck out – which I really would have liked if Foxygen did!)

  38. I was never quite the big fan of MGMT that a lot of people I know are, but I enjoyed both Oracular and Congratulations for what they were worth. This album…. not feeling it. I tend to appreciate when bands go in new directions and experiment, but this just sounds so subpar to me; and I say that as someone with quite a fondness for some acid drenched psychadelia.

    That said, I had to laugh at this review. Comparing Oracular to Hotel California and Thriller? Please. MGMT may have been an indie darling for a couple of minutes, but their music doesn’t have that kind of staying power.

  39. i can’t tell if they are just mad about their success or baffled by it or both or why they do what they do. I for one don’t mind their weirder leanings, but it almost seems deliberate not in the artistic sense, but in the, let’s continue to alienate fans and be ‘outsiders’ sense…which is lamer IMO

  40. The outro to “Someone’s Missing” off of Congratulations is the jam!

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