An address of twisting rhythms and taut tunes for a reimagined English southwest.
Natalie Shaw 2011-03-30
Joseph Mount, the man behind Metronomy, hails from Totnes in Devon. You’d never have guessed it from the locationless indie-disco of his earlier music, but the third Metronomy album sees him carefully hone in on the charms of southwest England. The market town in question is reimagined as (a different/fantasy) the English Riviera, a romantic destination where magic happens – and it’s apparent from the get-go, with the sound of cawing seagulls opening the album’s first song.
With this relocation comes a new sound too, a further excursion into Mount’s fascinating brain. The restless pace of 2008’s Nights Out is tempered with frequent moments of calm, and the insistent top layer of squelchy falsetto replaced with more modest, lithe hooks. She Wants is newly sentimental, adding a personal touch to the more generalised feelings the songs had previously explored, while Everything Goes My Way has a female lead vocal and the glamour of a John Hughes film from the 1980s. The latter is deliciously summery, but one of the album’s weakest for how uncompelling its structure is.
The lowlights on The English Riviera are thankfully rare. Trouble’s tart vocals head wistfully into a swaying doo-wop beat, with typically smart lyrics such as the cute tautology of "There’s a tear in your eye / And there’s no ‘I’ in tear". And that brings it back to the familiar; Mount’s strengths as a songwriter come from his willingness to show off, however much he may be aware of this.
Love Underlined is incredible, a standout song that hypnotically rises through urgent, insistent and twisted rhythms that start out at odds with each other and eventually come together into a giant four-to-the-floor chorus. The Bay, a theme tune of sorts for the album’s setting, sees the band taking on Daft Punk for energy levels – and more than matching that winsome fervour. "This isn’t Paris, this isn’t London, this isn’t Berlin, this isn’t Hong Kong, this isn’t Tokyo," Mount sings charmingly, glamorising his hometown through summery, lightly roughed-up choruses.
If Nights Out was the soundtrack to an all-hours party that threatened to blow the speakers, The English Riviera is the music in the ears of a restless insomniac. The type of punch Metronomy now pack is differently varied, and instead of relying on catchy melodies, its excitement and originality is now more broadly sourced.