Metronomy - The English Riviera

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2011-04-11

Something about Metronomy always makes you think they're going to be better than they actually are. Sure, there's plenty to like in the plinky-plonky early 80s synth-pop mixed with super-compressed funk this act peddle but you always feel you're waiting for a killer tune which never hits. Joseph Mount, the man behind Metronomy, always seems just a little bit too cool and detached to indulge in anything as gauche as fun.

 

Third album The English Riviera sees him loosen up a little, thanks perhaps to the album's over-arching concept of reinventing his home-town of Totnes, Devon, as a fantasy pleasure-land to rival Miami. Really, though, if you didn't know about that, you would not be able to pick out this thread from listening to the record's collection of self-consciously body-popping tracks and awkward, fretting ballads. Songs such as 'We Broke Free' and 'The Bay' may take an imaginary tour of his childhood stomping ground but, really, it could be anywhere.

 

Metronomy's saving grace is that Mount is undoubtedly a great music producer. The album's quieter moments, such as 'Trouble' and 'She Wants', shine thanks to some lovely, delicate textures which hover between 10cc, Gary Numan and Fujiya & Miyagi. Elsewhere, album highlight 'Corinne' sounds very like Of Montreal. It's fragmented tale of a man kicked out of the forces for expressing his love for someone remains oblique but it's carried through by a fantastic synth melody and carefree beat, which suggests Mount's strength lies in constructing such skewed, alt-pop gems.

 

The main problem here is Mount voice, a thin, too-knowing croon which somehow instantly puts one in mind of Calvin Harris, which is probably unfair. However, like Harris, Mount brings an air of faux-sincere dilettantism to everything he sings over. This is a real shame since, given time, The English Riviera could actually emerge as a minor pop classic. Mount's case isn't helped by some fist-gnawingly clever-clever lyrics such as "There's a tear in your eye / and there's no 'I' in tear" from 'Trouble'.

 

There's lots to enjoy on The English Riviera, for sure, but mostly it's the embroidery on individual songs, such as the Tetris-style synth interlude on 'Loving Arm'. Very few songs satisfy all the way through. Mount needs to show a touch more ambition and bring some more passion to his vocals. Then, perhaps, Metronomy will be the band you know they could be.

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