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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 46.0° F  Fair
Music
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MGMT: Congratulations
(Columbia)
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Trying to decipher what MGMT's new album is about - if it's "about" anything at all - is a trip. This is just what the band intended, no doubt. It's no mystery that the album's a tribute to drug-surfing, but there's much more beneath its kaleidoscopic surface.

For those hung up on "Time to Pretend" and "Kids," the hits from their previous album, Congratulations may feel like a diss. The only track that comes close to this type of party-friendly pop is "Brian Eno," a goofy chase theme of a song about the glam-rock pioneer turned Coldplay producer.

Then there's the title track's melody, which sounds like Ace of Base's "The Sign" at half-speed. Sure, it's a weird resemblance, but there's a message tucked between the lazy bass line and the pretty, watery keyboard solos: You're not going to achieve much by partying all night and lounging around on a beach towel all day, even if that's what's expected of you as a rock star.

"I Found a Whistle," the album's psychedelic slow dance, reveals a band yearning for something much deeper. It's John Lennon meets Leonard Cohen, filtered through wiggling organ notes and eerie electronics. As the layers of melody swirl to a climax, vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden takes aim at empty-headedness, noting, insincerely, how "real emotion's such a drag." Kudos to you, he says, if you've found something that closes your mind: a song, a drug, a computer game. Just don't expect your favorite band to come along.

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