The work of outsiders banging repeatedly on the door of success.
Mike Diver 2009
The common perception of anything bracketed as electronica is that you can dance to it. But while there are beats aplenty decorating the 16 tracks of this expanded re-issue of Metronomy’s debut album, you’ll need the lithe limbs of a contortionist to fully physically engage with the arrangements on offer.
The squelchy, fuzzy thuds of opener You Could Easily Have Me come on like the mangling of a 1970s glam-rock stomper and the Dr Who sound effects department, overseen by both Kraftwerk and dawn-of-disco Frenchmen Space. It’s a calling-card number, a firm fan favourite – but its accessibility, relative to what follows, is misleading. Pip Paine’s eccentric compositions rarely sit still long enough to settle into any groove; it’s an album that frustrates as often as it rewards, its fidgety tendencies sometimes spoiling what could be addictive little numbers.
Love Song For Dog – stabs of percussion fractured by design, brass dominating the high end – is along the lines of what you imagine Four Tet producing if Kieran Hebden had the wonky beats of the Ninja Tune catalogue somehow played to him in the womb. This Could Be Beautiful (It Is) chimes delightfully but ultimately leads nowhere, Trick or Treatz dismantles Hot Chip and reassembles the constituent pieces all back to front, and Bearcan clangs with enthusiasm but seemingly little direction.
Ultimately, Pip Paine is a showcase for main man Joseph Mount’s imagination over accomplished execution – the ideas on show would be better realised on the following Nights Out album, the recipient of a great deal of critical acclaim. While enjoyably disparate of component design, this record’s lack of any coherency does rather counter the playfulness evident when the listener really focuses. Closer New Toy, for example, is little more than background hum over a standard home stereo, but through decent headphones its washes of woozily eerie keyboard become quite beguiling.
Four bonus tracks add value to this release. Best among them is Hear to Wear (a b side to the Radio Ladio single), an insistent bleep frenzy that’s half Chopsticks, half krautrock. It – like much of Metronomy’s material – is baffling, the work of outsiders banging repeatedly on the door of success but, as yet, only being rewarded with keyhole glimpses of what could be.
Presumably because, try as you might, dancing to this stuff almost always ends in tears – both of laughter and born of a twisted ankle.