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There are so many different summer festivals now that it seems that every band goes on a "summer festival tour", the distinctions between festivals becoming increasingly blurred as identical line-up after identical line-up is announced. Bands are also expected to offer up the same homogenised setlist at every appearance, and it would be a foolish band indeed that failed to perform its obligatory Big Festival Single.
I first became aware of a wave of criticism heading in the direction of MGMT a few months ago when, in The Guardian, they were taken to task for having the audacity to perform minus their biggest single, Time To Pretend. This negative review was a taste of what was to follow on the release of their new album, Congratulations, which has been subjected to numerous accusations of "difficult second album" and "career suicide". From some headlines, it appears that even the band themselves have issued somewhat apologetic explanations of their new, non-festival-headlining-appropriate material.
This is a pity. As soon as I started listening to Congratulations, I was drawn into this big psychedelic swirl of an album. Certainly, it's full of songs that have complex structures and multiple ideas going on, but it's not the impenetrable mess that the reviews would have you believe. It's full of quirky pop moments that are far more rewarding than the majority of the stuff you'll hear this summer, if you have the patience to persevere with songs that aren't all four minutes' worth of verse-chorus-verse.
Listening to this album, I hear shades of The Cardiacs, Mercury Rev, The Polyphonic Spree and Sparks, none of whom is going to be headlining T in the Park any time soon. It's an album full of moments of unexpected beauty, complexity, melodic twists and turns and a sense of fun; evidence of a band with a far greater wealth of ideas than I first supposed, and I hope their next step is not to dumb things down.
Review also published on Ciao.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 It's Working
2 Song for Dan Treacy
3 Someone's Missing
4 Flash Delirium
5 I Found a Whistle
6 Siberian Breaks
7 Brian Eno
8 Lady Dada's Nightmare