In resisting a zeitgeist-orientated growth, Metronomy has shrugged off the temptation of crowd-pleasing, the allure of fleeting trends and even modern day technology.
Although an initial record did not arrive until 2006, you may be surprised to learn that Metronomy has been in the making since the last century – a teenage Joseph Mount could be found concocting debut album-bound material as early as the late-1990’s. The bedroom-produced hobby then steadily grew into a festival headlining pop machine over the course of four unique records.
After the arrival of the scintillating ‘Old Skool’ and in preparation for the impending ‘Summer 08’, it would be fitting to take a look back at the trajectory of Mount’s brainchild.
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‘Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe)’ (2006)
Whilst it’s common for artists to be defined by their debut album, this introduction (discounting the rare, Spanish shoe company dedicated ‘Wonders’ EP) is relatively neglected. Very few of its tracks are performed live (just one cut reaching post-2009 set lists) and its sickly-sweet eccentricity may have been a sugar-rush one too many for the masses.
For instance, the Aphex Twin-esque melodies in ‘Peter’s Pan’ are unapologetically inaccessible and the impressive glitchy IDM of the ear-scrapingly abrasive ‘The 3rd’ resembles an irritatingly haywire R2-D2.
However, typical of Metronomy, perseverance reaps great rewards. The woozily frenetic polk-tronica of ‘Black Eye/Burnt Thumb’ forms the album climax, whilst the nostalgic saxophones of ‘Love Song For Dog’ smother lashings of ice cream-van melody and schizophrenic drums; proving there is beauty to be found amongst this fidgety Nintendo electro.
‘Pip Paine…’ lacks any cohesion, but that’s not the aim of its game. It’s a blissfully unrestricted expression of a producer yet to find his feet, himself or even what dimension he lives in.
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‘Nights Out’ (2008)
It’s 2008 - the NME coined ‘new-rave’ scene is taking indie fans and their MySpace accounts by storm. New kids on the block Foals, Klaxons and The Late of The Pier are celebrating feral drunkenness with trashy guitars and fuzzy keyboard tones. And although Metronomy’s sophomore release boasts a comparable sonic presence, its introverted concept “about going out and having a crap time” could not be further from the pre-economic crash spirit.
With dance moves and flashing pound shop push-lights to boot, new recruits Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing turned ‘him’ into a ‘they’ as the exuberance of ‘Nights Out’ was brought to the live arena. Bookending the helium frenzy ‘My Heart Rate Rapid’, the twanging guitars and creaky-door samples prominent in ‘Radio Ladio’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ are initially laughable enough to warrant a second play; but after the third they form your new favourite indie hits.
The record then treads on darker territory after the gurgling instrumental ‘Side 2’ leads into the angst-ridden drunkenness of Holiday – sang as if mid-way though a dental examination. In culminating this sentiment, the grotesque lead synth of ‘On Dancefloors’ reaches a sobering moment - capturing perfectly the tedium of being surrounded by intoxicated clubbers, when all you want is your bed.
This cult classic saw Joe Mount discover his sound, direction and, most importantly, his swag.
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‘The English Riviera’ (2011)
Skip three years and Metronomy have morphed into an almost unrecognisable entity. Now supported by Anna Prior (drums) and Gbenga Adelekan (bass -replacing Stebbing), Metronomy 2.0 has gone from bargain-bucket synthpop to sleek, fleshed-out pop rock seemingly overnight.
The salty air of ‘The English Riviera’ is the direct antidote to, and perfect hangover cure for, the dizzying ‘Nights Out’. After the squawking seagulls of its opener fade, the sleek hooks, wavy analogues and warm tones of We Broke Free emerge – a song encapsulating Metronomy’s seismic shift.
‘She Wants’ and ‘The Bay’ also characterise this transformation, mainly due to vocals that are sung with such confident execution – something alien to previous material. The album’s hazy and retro-futurist production depicts the dream of scorched British beaches. ‘Some Written’ and ‘The Look’, for example, drift in and out of the record like the dissident bleeping of inland amusements from the perspective of dozy beach-bathers.
Polished - yet original, accessible whilst still very much on Mount’s terms - this Mercury nominated offering revolutionised Metronomy, liberating insular production across infinite coastlines.
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‘Love Letters’ (2014)
Following the phantasmal future-tech of ‘Pip Paine…’, the 80’s wonk-rave of ‘Nights Out’ and the 70’s pop-rock of ‘The English Riviera’, Metronomy’s fourth record was a (you got it) 60s-infused extension to Mount’s regressive musical voyage.
In authenticating this approach, the producer’s affinity with technology was parked in favour of computer-free analogue production. Anyone expecting a sequel to its predecessor was to be sorely disappointed – ‘Love Letters’ vintage brand of lounge-pop clouds The English Riviera’s utopiansim with a sense of longing and reflection.
Standout track ‘I’m Aquarius’ is caught up in these emotions and features smooth and chocolately bass, rippling alongside Mount’s yearnful rap. Singles ‘The Upsetter’ and ‘Reservoir’ offer similar chunky drum machines, only to be coupled with thin layers of shy melody.
The record’s introverted and sometimes under-whelmingly sparse approach was a bold direction that took the fandom some getting used to. However the heartfelt tunes soon grow in stature, and by the time you digest the satire of, say, ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’, its obvious that Mount’s complete lack of narcissism is still intact. Like or loathe this edition, the big risk-taking and refusal to rest on laurels kept the fans hooked.
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There’s a clear chronology in this backward-moving yet forward-thinking journey, however Metronomy’s next addition revisits the fan favourite synth-mania of 'Nights Out' – only now with unprecedented confidence. In becoming the antidote to its predecessor, ‘Summer 08’ will see Mount come full circle in what promises to be his most ingenious release yet.
Words: Jordan Foster