MMVIII or 2008 in layman terms was a year which had little green shoots emanating on the music front at home and further afield. BRIT school graduate Adele Adkin’s debut 19 first appeared on the shelves (and torrents), Wiley finally chomped on the crossover bullet to move his hypocritical behind, behind Dizzee and the unfathomable steroid abusing monotone of Flo Rida reached Blighty (it cataclysmically contributed to the swathe of American artists homogenising Electro House ). More importantly, it saw the release of Metronomy’s sophomore effort Nights Out that garnered critical acclaim for it’s lovelorn lyricism that Joseph Mount sprinkled over inventive pop, disco and electronica.
*Pushes Fast Forward button* Three years on, Adele is headed for global superstardom with her recordbreaking ten consecutive weeks at #1 on the UK album chart, Wiley has assumed creative control and even launched his own ad hoc press campaign. Flo Rida unfortunately still makes a living which Pingu could quite comfortably acquire (with greater coherence ). Metronomy are not oblivious to the shifting tide with a new lineup which includes bassist Gebenga Adelekan , and a welcome female injection via drummer Anna Prior. The previously experimental inclined production of founder Joesph Mount has transferred from the bedroom (which was a hallmark of the previous two LP’s) to the studio for the first time and his lyrical impetus is more prevalent than ever before.
Released on influential french label Because Music, the artwork on The English Riviera pays homage to the late John Gorham who created the iconic palm tree motif to promote the South Devon coastline. Mount was quoted as saying the concept of the record was set around “reimagining the place where he grew up”. Alas the self titled intro is a temperate opener with shrilling seagulls and soothing sea breeze signalling the change of direction in the proverbial wind. It seamlessly continues into ‘We Broke Free’ – a poignant harbinger that harbours around a slack guitar riff supported by rising sonic pads and calculated percussion. Roxanne Clifford of London outfit Veronica Falls sustains the leisurely air on ‘Everything Goes My Way’. Her interplay with Mount and ceaseless refrain of “love/ I’m in love / again” personifies a mature departure from the melancholy of earlier discography.
New single ‘The Look’ captures the nostalgic allure of the British seaside with a haunting organ loop and silky bass which would conciliate youthful zeal on the engaging carousel at the pier’s end. Recent release ‘She Wants’ provides a soft centre of down tempo substance that cultivates the listening palette. Ethereal slap bass and moody synth channel the remnants of an unreleased cut from Disintegration era Cure. ‘Trouble’ was one of the few tracks recorded across the English Channel. Consequently, the smooth talkbox croon; highlife twang and laidback ambience makes for a retrograde sunkissed ballad that would warm Serge Gainsbourg.
The English Riviera takes further respite on ‘Loving Arm’, with syncopated recurrence; hushed soundscapes and arpeggiated loops making a cameo which pertains to the surreal minimal aesthetic that permeated parts of Pip Paine. Whilst, ‘Corinne’ begins with a thudding snare backbeat and oscillating frequencies that would soundtrack the last dance of the 80’s prom movie. Soaring backing vocals and driving bass solos sound akin to a lovechild of Ratatat, Simple Minds and Gang of Four.
‘The Bay’ enters sophisticated disco territory with a meandering Moog synth hook which plays as a tribute to Torbay. Mount swoons “cos’ this isn’t Paris / and this isn’t London / and it’s not Buuurlin (exaggerated Gucci Mane manner) / and it’s not Hong Kong/ not Tokyo”. His staunch wordplay as tourist ambassador is a passionate epithet delving beyond facades and the mystique of the beaches. The brilliant ‘Some Written’ is a six minute slowburner which has clever hints of faint flutes, smooth bass and percussion fitting for an Eumir Deodato score. Yet, once it hits the 2:40 mark, groovy Rhodes chords serve as a precursor for the Stevie Wonder-esque denouement honing psychedelic, funk and bossanova sensibilities. An inviting tempo perfect for wistful summer cloudgazing. Concluding song ‘Love Underlined’ firmly lifts off from Earth transcending it’s electronic experimental base into the intergalactic unknown via organic acoustic, industrial drones and breathy falsetto.
The English Riviera gives the inclination of a frontman who is on an unprecedented level of ease from a writing perspective and this contagious aptitude has mutated handsomely to craft a refreshingly mature album that exceeds expectation. Take a bow Metronomy.