If MGMT’s second full-length, Congratulations, gets labeled a sophomore slump (which it will be) it’s probably just a case of false advertising. Those Pink Floyd comparisons I never quite understood in Oracular Spectacular reviews, their (quite right) insistence that the follow-up would not work as effectively split up into singles, the NME cover proclaiming their “Madcap return,” the 12-minute centerpiece “Siberian Breaks”: It all points to a fit of psych-prog insanity that never quite happens, but Congratulations is trippy, for sure, and it definitely looks backward.
“Brian Eno,” the album’s goofiest four minutes, is dedicated to an over-produced complaint — “I’m always one step behind him” — that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Opener “It’s Working,” is like a Zombies track chipmunked by Kanye West circa 2002, and it features what might be the album’s woozy thesis: “It’s working in your blood, but you know/ it’s not the same as love/ love is only in your mind/ not your heart.” “I Found a Whistle” sounds like Buddy Holly on a Promethazine drip, “Song for Dan Treacy” is what Of Montreal might sound like if they didn’t care that you took them seriously, and “Flash Delirium” practically infringes on Arcade Fire’s copyrights, but like Girl Talk or Dylan, it twists the plagiarism into something awesome. That dozen-minute opus is more like six half-finished songs played in a row, but “Someone’s Missing” is old-time rock ’n’ roll except for its Prince-huffing-helium vocals. And that might become the album’s most criticized aspect — MGMT remains too cartoonish for the strict Floydians no matter what depths (some of) the lyrics reveal on repeat listens. Zappazoids and people who can name an Oracular song other than “Time to Pretend” or “Kids” should have a blast, though. To put it another way: The title track could’ve been a standout on Ween’s The Mollusk. — Jeremy Martin