MGMT – Congratulations (2010)

by Jay Mattson

Way back when, in October 2007, a little album called Oracular Spectacular was digitally released. At the time, the stylish blend of glam and neo-psychedelia managed to shake things up. The physical LP was released the following January and Columbia Records’ little-band-that-could soon became the international sensation known as MGMT. And what a sensation they were. Their first single, “Time to Pretend”, set a pretense for incredibly poignant electro-pop that fascinated the underground music scene. Soon after, Oracular gems “Electric Feel”, “Weekend Wars” and (arguably most important) “Kids” instigated a storm of fans that were completely enamored by the psychedelic onslaught. For a while, MGMT were on top of the world, playing all sorts of festivals, selling out shows, and having their music featured everywhere from television (Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries) to movies (Sex Drive, Twilight: New Moon) and even video games (Midnight Club: Los Angeles, FIFA 09). Dance-hall aficionados Justice even won the 2009 Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for their remix of MGMT’s  “Electric Feel (Justice Remix)”. MGMT have been riding the success of Oracular Spectacular for two years, and it’s given the duo a lot of clout in underground and mainstream circles alike.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

It is important to remember MGMT’s past because, on April 13th, they will release their sophomore album (not counting their initial, unsigned release as The Management) titled Congratulations. Disappointingly, it will fail to impress even the most stalwart of fans. Where Oracular Spectacular was intriguing, sultry and (at times) epic, Congratulations falls into a void of noisiness, floundering psychedelic blips and indistinguishable garble. I should have seen this coming, actually, after the release of their first single off the album, “Flash Delirium”, a track that had multiple personality disorder (cue Ariel Pink, the Beatles, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) devoid of a likable personality amongst the group. Its jumbled demeanor was neither catchy nor interesting, which were two components MGMT had previously shown mastery of.

On some level, it is understandable how Congratulations came into existence as such a mess of an album. With near-blinding success and over-stimulation brought on by a debut album that proved to indie fans that pop wasn’t dead, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden most likely felt the urge to branch out, try new things and experiment. I would normally encourage this sense of adventure, but in the case of Congratulations this experimentation has resulted in a mutated, over-produced, gestating pile of ‘songs’ that barely peak interest, let alone grab your ears and move your legs like “Kids” or “Electric Feel.” The boys looked toward the stars and ended up in the mud. Keep in mind, I wanted to like this album. Like any other MGMT fan, I loved Oracular Spectacular and was eager to hear more. Contrary to what the band said themselves, there is no “sonic and thematic coherence” to be found here. What I got instead was tediousness, unimaginative electronic fluttering and a serious lack of semblance.

Even albums by experimental rockers The Mars Volta have a sense of meaning behind the chaotic maelstrom of fury. Congratulations merely feels sloppily laid together and over-thought to its own deprecation. Album opener “It’s Working” makes the listener almost believe just that; this album might be working for MGMT, it might indeed be the successful follow-up it was meant to be. That feeling quickly fades as the album moves forward into bland territory with “Song for Dan Treacy” and “Someone’s Missing” before going into an all-out free-fall with the aforementioned “Flash Delirium.” Simply put, most of the songs on this album sound the same. It is nearly impossible to tell one song from another. On Oracular, each song’s distinct personality shone through effortlessly. On Congratulations, each track endeavors to sound different by employing randomly placed psychedelic tricks to sound like they are all unique. In fact, they all sound so similar I am amazed MGMT did not go all-out and make a concept album by combining the nine tracks into three or four opuses. The one exception to the rule on Congratulations, and coincidentally the album’s twelve-minute musical journey, is “Siberian Breaks”, a song that knows it is a long-winded psych/prog/ambient mess and does not even attempt to be anything else. And while the album actually starts to tighten up near the end, tracks “Brian Eno”, “Lady Dada’s Nightmare” and the title track, “Congratulations”, all feel degrees sloppier than anything found on Oracular Spectacular, and that is just not promising.

At the end of the day, Congratulations is simply boring. It is truly unfortunate that a duo as talented as Goldwasser and VanWyngarden somehow managed to over-produce an album to the point where it speeds right past qualities of innovation and becomes stuck in a rut of redundancy. I find myself going back to listen to the album here and there, trying to find the good buried underneath all the crap; I mean, these guys did write Oracular Spectacular, didn’t they? Alas, Congratulations is a fruitless effort and I found myself more frustrated than before. It is the mark of a crazy person in attempting the same action over and over again and expecting a different outcome. I do not want to be crazy and I fear Congratulations would send me over the edge.


RIYL: The Kooks, Klaxons, Vampire Weekend, Black Kids, The Killers, Friendly Fires, The Faint, Justice, The Teenagers, Late of the Pier,Phoenix, Shiny Toy Guns, VHS or Beta


MGMT – Flash Delirium



Official Web Site



Jay Mattson

Depending on when you ask, I live in Greensboro, NC or Daegu, South Korea. I'll either be teaching English to Korean children or waiting tables in the United States. I'm currently writing reviews, features and weekly wrap-ups for Obscure Sound and producing an album with my fiance and best friend.


  1. This album has been streamable for 3 days.

    to make a review so critical of an album 3 days after it is released is pretty moronic.

    if your not struck by the album straight away, give it more time.

    if you like OS and hate congratulations, its probably because your far to into mainstream to appreciate this album.

  2. to be fair, the reviewer had this album for well over a week. I agree that reviewing an album after a short period of time allows room for misinterpretation, but most reviews in music publications take a week at most before turning in their review. deadlines, relevancy, numerous assignments, etc. create these sort of circumstances. I think that after a week, one can determine whether an album is cohesive and enjoyable, or a jumble of similar-sounding songs and ideas. especially in the case of this album, I tend to agree with the review. and to be fair, the only positive buzz I have seen from this album is coming from MGMT fans that were madly obsessed with their debut.

    opinions on this album will vary, but I would personally classify it as less than mediocre. so 4/10 seems about right.

  3. Mike, you were dead on, and I’m not just being agreeable because we share the same praenomen. MGMT was a band I found in undergrad via a friend from Oregon who still knew them as “Management.” The love was instantaneous, as I found their music during a time in my life where it was really able to sink in. Oracular Spectacular was one of those albums you could trip to and feel like the gods were smiling down, making sense of it all. I remember thinking to myself, “These guys are going to take us to the promised land.”

    Their new album just doesn’t hit that same feel, call it ethereal, emphatic, electric or whatever. There were very few emotional openings to the listener, and I think the plethora of accessible themes,tones and hues in Oracular is what makes it such a beast of an album compared to Congratulations. Your review must have been a tough one to give, being a fan of MGMT and the ideas they put forth in their freshman effort, but it was honest and on point. Hopefully the boys catch a look at it and rethink their cocktail selection before going into the studio again. Cheers.

  4. I for one have to completely disagree, reviewer. I love the new album. It’s different, yeah, but it’s great in it’s own way. Siberian Breaks is a beast of a song, and the rest of the album is just as amazing.

    Of course, this is coming from a huge fan of psychedelic music, so I may be a tad biased, but the whole “no emotions” on the new record is just flat out wrong. The song “Congratulations” is probably one of the most emotion-provoking songs that MGMT has written yet, and the ending of Siberian Breaks is just plain awe-inspiring.

    All in all, I’d give the album some credit. And I REALLY have to disagree with you on the “even stalwart fans won’t like it” thing, because I am a huge fan of the band, and I absolutely LOVE it.

  5. Like Mike mentioned, I have had the full album for well over a week now and have listened to it numerous times in that period. I agree that trying to review an album after a few days is misguided, but after ~8 days of listening, I still couldn’t get behind it. I have th same problem with Vampire Weekend’s Contra.

    Also, just to clear this up, I can’t actually listen to mainstream right now, as there isn’t a source of mainstream music for a westerner teaching English in South Korea. I could, however, give you quite an in-depth look into the world of Kpop!

    ***Thanks for all the words of critique. I always appreciate constructive criticism from any angle.***

  6. I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. While Congratulations is quite different than Oracular Spectacular and probably won’t be a pleasurable listen for “I only like three of their songs” fans, to fans of psychedelia, such as myself, it can be quite enjoyable. Personally, I find Flash Delirium to be one of the album’s more interesting tracks, due to it’s “multiple personality disorder” as you put it (are you saying that the Beatles’ psychedelic era albums were negatively effected by this as well?). What it comes down to is that while songs like Electric Feel and Kids were great attention grabbers, ultimately, in my opinion, they brought the overall feel of Oracular Spectacular down. Now that MGMT has people’s attention, they can focus more on what they do best, psychedelia, and less on their attention grabbing hipster dance tunes. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those tracks as well, I just feel they would’ve been better as singles, with Metanoia incorporated into the album instead.

  7. This is an interesting album. Even though it changed in a direction you don’t like, these guys know music. I think its actually a lot better than their first album. The first album was like holding back. They decided to make pop songs, the ones that would sell and get them famous. Then they made this album, a congratulations to themselves for achieving success. It shows gratitude and happiness and madness. It needs to be listened to differently perhaps, but its still very good in its own right.

  8. “I Found A Whistle” was one of the most cathartic, moving, emotional, chilling songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Siberian Breaks” and “Flash Delirium” were my other favorites. There are some metaphors and cryptic/ambiguous language in these songs… you need to think about it to get it. These are thought-provoking songs. Or maybe it’s just that their content connects with some of my thoughts and it hasn’t done that for you. I’ve loved everything of MGMT I’ve heard, not just for the sound of the music (which has been great, and continues in this album) but for the messages, thoughts, and emotions/moods conveyed in the music. There’s a lot of that in this album–I picked up on some existentialist themes and feelings of uncertainty/chaos, and they really connected for me, but again that could just be me reflecting my own thoughts off the music. That’s what the ambiguity allows, and something that helps make this album so great.

  9. great comments so far… some really great elaboration of opinions. really goes to show that this is an album that is going to have a very mixed reception, for better or worse. it’s an interesting one for sure. you’re going to have reviews that give it a 1/10 and others with a 10/10… it’s just that sort of album and these sort of comments represent that.

  10. Good review. 4/10 — this album is slightly below average. It’s not terrible but it’s definitely not exciting.

    I actually like Flash Delirium quite a bit though.

    BTW – a few days is PLENTY of time to get a feel for an album. I don’t think it takes more than 3-5 listens through an album to have a solid handle on it.

  11. Mike,

    I really love your site and usually your taste and opinions happen to be very similar to mine. But in this case, I just can’t disagree more.

    I was one of those that didn’t like Oracular Spectacular very much and thought MGMT were extremely overrated. So I approached this album with very little interest, just out of (mild) curiosity. After the first three tracks I was already incredibly surprised and after “Siberian Braks” ended, completely blown away! What you describe as “multiple personality disorder” is precisely what I found so appealing. I found the approach (not the music, but the approach, definitely) very similar to that of of Montreal’s most recent albums, which someone once aptly called “ADD (attention deficit disorder) music” and that I absolutely love. And, like oM’s albums, in spite of all this obsessive-compulsive torrent, I really perceive a cohesive feeling coming out of it.

    Overall, a very pleasant surprise. With just a few days of listening, I would already easily give it an 8.5

  12. gotta agree, this album is going to clean up. i just pre-ordered mine on itunes and i’ve been listening on their website all day. i really love it. it’s different, but def. worth it. i like mgmt’s reinvention, they’re great

  13. Oops, never mind! I didn’t pay attention. 😛 Sorry to you both! Anyway, just disconsider the first paragraph (but I’ll take this chance to say I really liked and agreed with your Shearwater and Yeasayer reviews, Jay).

  14. I remember after my first listen to this six days ago, I declared “it’s working” the only promising track from this album. Reading these reviews made me put the album on play again to give it another chance, but it still hasn’t broken out of its shell for me, though i am a little more fond of some of the tracks than before. About a week ago, i would have given this album a 4 or 5, but I think it deserves more of a 6 or a 6.5.

    Good review by the way, in ways similar to the way I think.

  15. I gotta say, I agree with the review at large but 4/10 is way too critical. If anything siberian breaks is a song that represents what this album could of been, it just feels listening to it from start to finish that if theyd expanded what was good and cut the rubbishey fat in places (flash delirium, i found a whistle and lady dadas nightmare) it could of been a thoroughly groundbreaking album.

  16. As a body of work, this is an excellent album.

    Seperately, i’d say it has its obvious strengths and weaknesses.

    It’s working has a great opening and is a pretty solid way to start the album. (6.5/10)

    Songs for dan treacy is not immediate whatsoever and has taken 10 plays just to really get my head around it, musically its fantastic and very uplifting. (7.5/10)

    Someones missing is a solid album song, because its short and gets to the point and then just ends, you can’t complain at all (7.5/10). Flash delirium is probably the craziest (and second most funny song on the album). I love the mish mash of styles throughout it, again it isn’t immediate, but its one of the top songs on the LP (8/10). I found a whistle is probably one of the weaker efforts, it feels slightly anthemic which i think makes it too immediate and i can see myself getting bored of it. (6.5/10)

    Siberian breaks is the albums highlight, the brilliant guitars throughout it and the highs and lows and different stages of the song takes you on what is basically a musical adventure, its simply MGMT at there best (8.5/10). The first 15 seconds of Brian Eno made me laugh the first time i heard it. Its pretty crazy but its a very well produced and lyrically spot on song (7.5/10). Lady Dada’s nightmare is probably my least favourite song. Boring beginning, picks up a minute in, then weird screaming starts which is nothing short of horrific and makes me laugh uncomfortably but the final minute or so has a wonderful eery quality which still makes me wonder if its another moment of genius or not (6.5/10).

    Congratulations, hmm, don’t think its great. Musically its nice, just nice. Not an epic album ender by any means (7/10).

    Ok, so its not Kids, and its not time to pretend. But thats been done, i’d have happily taken another Oracular Spectacular with open arms, but this album allows us to see what MGMT probably wanted to produce all the long, something less immediate and more artistic. I’d hate to see them produce an album feathered with single worthy tracks and then the band end up producing mainstream slush in the years to come.On average i’ve probably given the songs around 7 out of 10, but as a full body of work it gets an 8 out of 10 for me and will be getting a good hammering on itunes from me for the summer ahead.

  17. i don’t even listen to these guys/(well i’ve heard the singles from their OS LP), but this effort definitely sounds more inventive at least//I suspect this will actually get favourable reviews overall,

  18. I was pretty surprised when I gave the record its first listen (it’s definitely a bit of a departure from the hooky Oracular stuff) but it has grown on me quite a bit over the last week. “Siberian Breaks” and “It’s Working” are especially cool. If you still haven’t heard it you can check out the whole album on MGMT’s site:

  19. AMAZING ALBUM, CANT STOP LISTENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was not a very big fan of the first album, altough it hade some good songs. This one they have strucked my music genre right on top. Sounds more like Indie pop to me now! I did not have so much anticipation before the release because of the first album but man. Extremly amazing!¨Wooooooooooohooooo :D:D

  20. completely dont agree this album is amazingly valid to me. this is a reasult of a band taking a risk and introducing something new to the general music population. it may not have the instand likability of oracular but it has a whole new sorta feel to it and should not be judged against their debut. this album is likely to have a much greater impact of the direction of music then people think at the moment. give it a few months to sink in and bands will be poping up all over the place sampling this sorta stuff.

  21. I dont completely agree or disagree with the review – though I do think it is a fair review either way. I will say though, that it seems that most people are missing the simple fact that their first album contained many themes surrounding growing up, experimentation and what lies ahead. It is this fresh attitude that made Oracular Spectacular so great, yet is missing on the new album becuase the band seems to be lost as to where they should go next. Oracular Spectacular launched MGMT into super-stardom and has forced this follow up album to become less about the band just furthering their exploration of music, and more about ‘one-upping’ what made them great in the past. It is this very mentality and un-willing to grow with a band that destroys so many careers of young artists who raise up too quick for their own good.

    … that being said however, if the album just isnt that good, then there is not much you can do about it. I took a listen to the album – listened all the way through a few times. And I for one am in complete agreement that there is just something lacking about this album. That musical dexterity of the first album seems to be replaced by mashed together pieces. A step in the progressive direction or a lazy attempt to make brilliant music?

  22. Although personally I really enjoyed Congratulations, I completely aknowledge its role as a musical poalrizer. In that respect, I enjoyed the review and found it a insightful and (constructively) critical review.

    However having that said, I must respectfully disagree; not with the reviewer’s assessment of the musical quality of the LP (as that is purely subjective), but with the reviewer’s hasty prediction of it’s resonance with fans. It is stated that Congratulations, due to its experimental and rather esoteric nature “will fail to impress even the most stalwart of fans”. I completely disagree. Naturally if these “stalwart fans” are part of the large contingent of MGMT listeners who only enjoyed the first half of Oracular Spectacular (in which is found the three songs included in the post as a representation of the band’s past work), then this LP will invariably come as a dissapointment. However, I believe that those who enjoyed the whole of MGMT’s debut work will not only be unsurprised by this move, but will love it.

    In many ways, I think that this record continues where the Metanoia EP left off with it’s “musical ADD” and vast sweeping landscapes of orchestration. Although more subdued than Metanoia, even in the EP’s most gentle points, the similarities are fairly obvious.

    I’m sure there will be lots of hardcore MGMT fans who will not be pleased with this album. But, for the most part, I believe that many of the fans who were more intrigued by MGMT’s experimental and legitimately psychadelic efforts will find this record as, or perhaps even more entertaining than OS.

  23. I wouldn’t go as far as Jay went in the review, but it’s certainly not as good of an album as Oracular Spectacular. What I loved about the first album was the fist pumping party vibe it had to about it. It was about finding models for wives. Now we have “Flash Delirium”, which is an ironic title given that the new album has been ripped in the press.

    I have no idea where they are going to go after this.

  24. I haven’t heard this album yet but I like some of their previous material so I think I may have to still check it out. After this review it’s a ‘try before you buy’ however…

  25. I think ‘Congratulations’ has just taken a different direction than the first album. They still have the amazing killer sound and feel from “Oracular Spectacular” that we all know and love but they’ve also done something different with the latest album which is totally fine. I mean, they couldn’t release another album sounding the same as the first. They’re artists, they’ve got to evolve.

  26. Wow for the first time ever i diagree with a Jay Mattson review! i really enjoyed this album but then again, i was not a fan of their first…

  27. Totally agree. I love MGMT and bought concert to a summer show before Congratulations came out. Still excited to see them… but less so after hearing the new album.

  28. A very misguided review I must say. If you’re looking for an OS sequel this is not the album. Do some research on the bands you critique. Even “googling” their new album you’ll see the intentions behind the new album. They wanted to get away from those “Single-carried” albums and focus more on a complete album. I hate to see good albums go down because of ignorance. “Indie Music Blog” they are most certainly NOT indie. You are entitled to your opinion, but MY opinion, being a well-versed MGMT fan, is that you simply accuse without reason, and that makes it very easy to eliminate all credibility you have/had.

  29. Wonderful review. I couldn’t agree more. The album drove me insane and I am still recovering.

  30. although i respect your opinion, i disagree. I thought that it was a spectacular album, i enjoyed the calm, almost hypnotizing rhythm. Although i also agree that OS had far more catchy songs, and many more hits, but i still think congratulations is just as good. You just need to be in the right mindset.

  31. This is their best album! are you crazy? everyone only likes their old album because of Kids and Time To Pretend. No one even bothers to listen to their other songs that are way better. Kids doesnt even define the type of music that MGMT is.

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