Monday, 28 March 2011

Metronomy (Album Review)

The 'English Riviera' is a radically different effort to any of Joseph Mount's previous albums or EPs. Although it utilises a lot of similar concepts, it ties them together in a really different, more varied way than any of its predecessors; throughout the album there's a diversity of emotion that transcends all of Mount's previous work. 'The English Riviera' is a really mature album; but, and importantly so, the melancholy is balanced against the endearing childishness of the awkward synth melodies and swooping falsetto that Metronomy fans have come to know and love. Mount has drawn the good bits of his old music and used it to compliment a change in direction; one of the things I respect most about him as a musician is definitely his capacity for constantly evolving his sound.

The best example of this contrast working is the amazing 'Corinne', a woeful lament to meeting and falling for a girl on a dancefloor that utilises both Mount's previously established talent for brilliantly sheepish lyricism ("I got my heart tied up, got my heart in a bind / She just wants to dance all the time") and his newfound fetish for soaring, euphoric synth lines, building from Mount wailing over reassuringly electronic drums to epic, falsetto-led funkiness. Similarly, the debut single 'She Wants' is gloominess at it grooviest, with Cure-esque bass leading into a bridge characterised by typically Metronomy synth squelches, and 'The Look' is a really shimmering, seductive four minutes (The video is awful though, the sight of Oscar akwardly wielding a guitar makes me want to chain him to his Korg haha).

There's a few tracks that hark more obviously back to his wonky electronic origins; the gloriously warped 'Loving Arm' feels like its been recorded underwater, meshing several awkward synth lines together in a way thats certainly funky, if not neccesarily danceable. 'The Bay' takes curiously oriental sounds, syncopated bass and hi-hats and creates something that I imagine is what most people will want from the album; an offbeat, catchy melody. Although it is undeniably catchy it also feels a bit lazy, as if Mount has used a really similar format to a lot of his older music and jazzed it up a bit; the track also features unexpectedly bassy sections, leaving it feeling a little disjointed as a whole.

The tracks that feature complete self re-invention are interesting; 'Some Written' sounds worryingly like lounge music for the first few minutes, but piercing synth and wobbly arpeggios casually filtered into the backing help remind you that Mount at his most laid back is still far wierder than a lot of other musicians. The kazoo led jam is a definite highlight haha. 'Love Underlined' is a really odd, messy song, and definitely a good one to end the album on, with tense vocals, maraca accents and wierd drum patterns building to quick snatches of heavy, dancefloor friendly bass, before collapsing back into wierd tinny, medieval sounding synth melodies and glittery percussion. 

Ultimately I think a lot of people will probably be dissapointed with the album; whereas pretty much all of 'Nights Out' was single material, there are only a few tracks on this that approach the previous album's ability to provoke manic shape-making. It's a lot less instantly satisfying than his previous stuff, and the general move away from the skewed pop of NO means a lot of the album can feel a little underwhelming; but if you can embrace the gloom/groove combo, as well as the preference for acoustic drums, 'The English Riviera' is a really rewarding album. Although the contrast of mature, melancholic sound and more poppy melodies is occasionally skewed, the tracks on which Mount succeeds in getting the right balance are brilliant.

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