One Track Mind: MGMT – “Flash Delirium”

Editor’s Note: To the right is one of the most hideously obnoxious album covers ever, for MGMT’s upcoming release Congratulations.

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MP3: MGMT – Flash Delirium from upcoming LP Congratulations

I never really liked MGMT’s first album, Oracular Spectacular, but I’d be lying if I said its three singles (“Time to Pretend,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel”) didn’t approach guilty-pleasure status. What surprised me more was how the band’s Idiot’s Guide to Psych Pop approach managed to reel in a lot of my friends who wouldn’t ordinarily get into music this, well, weird.

I still can’t figure out why this happened. Having a very danceable beat certainly helps, and in that age-old pursuit of getting the opposite sex on the dance floor, MGMT seemed to work as effectively as “Party in the USA” or the latest Lady GaGa track. Despite the lack of any surface-level similarities,  it wasn’t unusual to hear such a pairing when I was out with said friends in Federal Hill (don’t crucify me). And sure enough, people danced. But I don’t think that entirely explains why this band was so universally appealing. To me, it’s still a mystery.

At the time, I thought their crossover success could be a good thing, like it would serve as some sort of gateway to enlightenment and much better music. Surely people could find bands with similar sonic elements to MGMT but much more complex arrangements and the light bulb would go off. In my own little circle, that didn’t really happen.

Now I can only imagine how my friends will react to the train wreck that is “Flash Delirium,” the first single off the band’s sophomore album, Congratulations. Essentially, the band took any redeeming qualities they once had (however few), and any good will they had earned from a living organism with a working pair of ears, stabbed them with a dull butter knife and then pissed all over what was left. We better hope some higher-up at the Pentagon doesn’t get a hold of this and ship it off to Guantanamo, because it will easily become the most effective torture device ever. [/snarky hyperbole]

But really, one can only imagine what the band was thinking when they sat down to write this, somehow thought it was worth recording and then, defying all sense of reason, released it into the world. There should have been red flags all throughout the process signaling the time to torpedo the track once and for all.

Oh wait, there were. MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser told Spinner recently: “When we first wrote that song, we were laughing so hard. Andrew [VanWyngarden] just reminded me of that — that we thought it was the funniest thing we’d ever heard.”

Okay, Ben, glad to know your ear drums are still intact. So why make the rest of us suffer?

“And then we got used to it, it started to sound more normal.”

It did? Really? How many opiates did you have to consume to reach that conclusion?

“It’s not a single, but we thought it was a good way to entice people to listen to the whole record.”

Seriously?! This?!

“I’m sure there are plenty of people who think it’s completely weird and not what they were expecting. I’m sorry.”

As well you should be. Too late now. Only time to analyze.

Basically, what they tried to do was take all sorts of genres and reference points– from a brief visit to their own electric origins to post-acid Beatles to punk –and cram them all into one 4-minute song. Some of the homages are only 30 seconds or so long. It’s like they tried to create the musical equivalent of that YouTube video about the evolution of dance, only they didn’t bother using any semblance of a chronological order… or transitions that make sense… or good judgment.

You won’t find any of the beats or hooks that endeared them to so many. The end result, if it isn’t already painfully clear, is an incoherent disaster the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a very long time. Everything they tried for, or at least what I think were trying for, didn’t work in any conceivable way.

So why?

Goldwasser said in the interview that the record was a response to the band’s rapid ascent to fame.

“We’re trying to come to grips with that world,” he said. “It’s not our world. We don’t feel comfortable in it. But we didn’t want to make that typical second album either, about fame. So we’re definitely observing it, as opposed to revelling in it.”

Their cure for that uncomfortable feeling, it seems, is to take that world and destroy it– to push everything away that brought it into existence. If the rest of Congratulations is half as bad as “Flash Delirium,” then they will truly get their wish, because the people who loved them before most certainly will not be back.

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8 Responses to “One Track Mind: MGMT – “Flash Delirium””

  1. the track’s self-indulgence is one that reminds me of Weezer.

  2. Your review is null and void.

    This song is not even 1/100th as bad as you make it out to be.

    I really don’t want to know what music you listen to on a daily basis.

    I just read your review out loud to my friend and your words are really disgusting.

    Why don’t you try to make some music that rivals this?

    Or maybe listen to some real music, music that this song references?

    (Velvet Underground, the Nuggets series, the Cyrkle-The Cowsills, the Born Bad series, proto-disco etc.)

    The internet is really dangerous because of hyperbolic, sick wordsnakes like yourself.

    MGMT, your song is awesome.


  3. Drury,

    Thanks for reading.

    Guilty as charged on the use of hyperbole. Some of it was definitely meant to be over the top and humorous. However, I don’t think that makes me, or the internet in general, “dangerous.”

    Regardless, I still think this is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a long time. I definitely enjoy some of the music they reference. That’s not the point. MGMT crammed way too many references into this one song, resulting in a muddled incoherent mess. And just because they are capable enough to reference certain bands or genres, that doesn’t mean slapping a bunch together automatically makes for a great song. That’s my take anyway.

    Take care,

  4. Cris says:

    That was a horrible review. I personally like the song. It’s ok for you not to like it, but to hate on it just like you did really shows how clueless about music you are.

  5. Kevin says:

    I think it’s important to note your pre-existing distaste for MGMT. I sense that like many in the “chew it up, spit it out” culture of the online music community, there is predilection for the contrarian opinion. As a member of this community, I’ll admit that I have grown tired of MGMT long ago. I agree with you when you say “Having a very danceable beat certainly helps, and in that age-old pursuit of getting the opposite sex on the dance floor, MGMT seemed to work as effectively as “Party in the USA” or the latest Lady GaGa track.” For a time this catchy popularity was something of a relief for the party-weary hipster tired of the high-school hip-hop, but that popularity soon turned toxic. There is a disparity, in terms of the trajectory of band popularity, between this elitist online community and the masses. In an assumedly trickle down system, where we are chomping at the bit, frenzying around any and all sources for the next big thing, our elitism is aggravated by the majority of folks who are not so proactive and as such rave over bands we’ve been listening to for months. We pity the fool who isn’t doing the same as us, but simultaneously resent everyone else who is.

    I’ve digressed a bit, but that being said, I think that MGMT is going to have one hell of a time living up to the ridiculous expectations that this next album has, who now has the masses equally chomping at the bit. While I agree that this song is perhaps somewhat cluttered in it’s eclectic nature, it does have some nice sections as a result, even if the full result is not so accessible. I think it shows a certain maturity to the boys that I was uneasy about given their “rapid ascent” as you said, which is reassuring and actually has me more excited for their next album than I was previously. Which is to say that while this first leaked track may be confusing in the face of those lofty expectations it shows a level of ambition, moreover fearlessness, I was not expecting and I don’t think anyone should be chastised for that.

    That’s my take anyways, good piece though. The hyperbole was well conceived and the desired level of snarky was thus achieved. Nice incorporation of a topical reference with the music at Guantanamo, I’ll have to remember that one for my own rantings.


  6. pasta says:

    i didn’t think the track was quite as bad as you, but it definitely wasn’t good…or well put together. i just finished listening to the album and unfortunately Flash Delirium seems to be the best track on it. meh. not complete trash, but not worthy of repeat listens for sure.

  7. Jordan10la says:

    Yes because one doesn’t like a song you seem to like they must obviously be clueless when it comes to music in general. I liked the first album but I’m pretty indifferent to this song, and the album as whole really.

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