THURSDAY, AUGUST 04, 2011|
Posted by: Joe Puglisi
Metronomy (pronounced Meh-TRON-oh-mee) have been pumping out ear candy for quite some time, spawning two albums worth of spectacular synthetics worthy of rivaling other more well-known English electronica. 2008's Nights Out saw a bit of a tightening of the untamed sound of their debut, demonstrating front-man Joseph Mount's ability to take a bedroom-beats platform (Metronomy at its origin) and turn it into single-ready songs like "Heartbreaker", all without losing the repetitive brilliance of momentous cuts like "On The Motorway". It's annoying that they've flown below the radar for this long, but it's not a surprise they suddenly burst into the scene. The English Riviera, Mount's concept album about the sun-soaked destination on the coast of England, is more than just a collection of enjoyable noises—it's a blissful compendium of squashed emotions, inflated hopes, and sunshine cynicism, wrapped in a blanket of brilliant beatsmithery. It's also up for the coveted Barclay's Mercury Prize, so there's that.
Mount set out to prove he could write in a more rigid structure (a conceit, an idea of space and time set in stone and in the studio), and the focus suits him, especially considering the band's formation in Totnes, England, close enough to the titular coast. Overall, The English Riviera feels comprehensive, touching on various aspects of a fleeting time by the sea. The initial flirts ("The Look"), the glamorous moments of excess ("The Bay"), the momentary lapse in romantic judgement ("Everything Goes My Way"), the failed romantic gestures ("Some Unwritten", "Corrine")... it's easy to get lost in the narrative. Like a good book, you become invested, even though the characters are unclear and the plot is simple at best. Mount also sings more than on previous albums, and with the addition of several female solo voices (on the recordings) and new touring band-mates, The English Riviera, unlike other Metronomy records, has a large amount of lyrics and vocal harmonies to enjoy.
Empathetic notes aside, Mount's focus tightened his ear for catchy riffs and motifs, and they find a new concentration on The English Riviera. Every song has at least one golden compositional moment, some have several. "The Look" is tropical without being fluffy, and harmony-soaked in all the right places to sound unique and refreshing ("Giving you the look ah", really hits it). "The Bay" crams worldly ambitions into a disco-leaning track with an incredible bass-keyboard riff combo, and the effect is as dance-y as it is foreboding ("It feels so good", literally). "Corrine" has one of the catchiest choruses I've heard in recent memory ("I've got my heart tied up/now with a boom and a bang/I'm not gonna' find you again"), emerging out of a quirky first verse and leading into a solid guitar-led passage, all mismatched and yet perfectly glued together. The last four minutes of "Some Unwritten"...I swear, I've never heard anyone make goofy lounge noises groove so hard.
Mount's also an ace remixer, and he never lets us forget his first love is the band's core affair with electronica. "Love Underlined" closes out the record with a definitive statement from Metronomy: despite playful concepts, the band's true love is creating a resonant, blood-pumping riff. The first time the synth revs up, at about 1:45, it's sonically thrilling. Anyone who agrees and hasn't already should delve into their back catalog. It's full of moments like this. However, the best bits of Metronomy are the versatile movements—from sing-song-y trodding to face-melting techno rocket-launches and back again. The English Riviera is full of the kind of refreshing unexpectedness that makes modern music truly memorable.