With their last album, Nights Out, Metronomy received a decent amount of attention from the British music press and were soon festival favourites. This was mostly thanks to their unique brand of goofy electro/indie that spawned a series of singles which became staples in every indie DJ’s playlist; they allowed the awkward kids something they could dance to and laugh along with simultaneously. It was camp, it was silly, it was catchy and mostly it was just damn fun. Since that album Metronomy have lost one member, but added two, including for the first time a drummer. Changes in their style were instantly noticeable in their live performances as a four piece; although they were performing the same songs, they had lost the screwy choreographed dances and the quirky white lights on their chests they’d been famed for having. They were now performing as a more orthodox band.
This normality has permeated through into Metronomy’s third release The English Riviera. The music has been stripped of the wacky layers, and is, on the whole, a lot plainer. Despite having, for the first time, an actual drummer in the band, the drumlines are simpler than ever. This is in order to match the stripped down sound that characterises the third album. In terms of what stands out from the songs there is often a pretty guitar line and a pleasant synth back drop, but the lack of depth to the sound renders songs almost immediately forgettable. Ostensibly it seems that the band are trying to emulate sexy and stylish laid back music from the 80s, but on most occasions they fail at producing those qualities and it comes off like bad elevator music. There is also no explanation for the lengths of some of these songs, especially the diabolically bad, six minute “Some Written.”
The colourfully chirpy lyrics of Nights Out are also lost in the sound transformation, which is perhaps the saddest of all. Before crowds would be singing things like “Those who doubt it/Show I’ve got it/I’m gonna tell her with my heart rate rapid/It might be love!” (or howling along incomprehensibly) but now they’ll be standing stock still listening to trite like “Now you’ve got me back/You know I’ll never up and run.”
The only song that fully realises their new style is “She Wants” with its sumptuous bassline and slick chorus; it certainly casts the band in the more dapper light they seem to be craving here, if only for four minutes.
Seemingly knowing that they can’t fully escape their old style they’ve included “The Bay” which, with its high-pitched multi tracked vocals, penetrating synthesizers and undeniable disco aspiration, could have come straight out of their last album. There’s also the bubblegum “Corinne,” with a chorus of “I got my heart tied up/I got my heart in bind/She just wants to dance all the time,” which recalls the outright cheesiness of Nights Out. Although these two may brighten the album a little they also underscore the blandness of the rest of the album.
It is probably a smart move for Metronomy to move away from the extroverted pop anthems that fuelled Nights Out to avoid repetition and pigeonholing, but a move this drastic in one go was inadvisable. It comes off like the jester at the high court clocking off, changing into smart clothes and returning to mingle with the royals having forgotten to remove his face paint. There are enough moments here to suggest that the band can find a comfortable middle ground between the two sounds that will suit both their aspirations and the desire of the listeners, let’s just hope that next time around they find it.