Amy Gwinnett reviews Metronomy’s new album, taking a nostalgia fueled trip back to the summer of ’08.
How was your Summer 08 ? Seemingly only yesterday and yet already years in the past, it’s a time that hangs on the edge of nostalgia – something cheekily played on by the retro artwork of Metronomy’s new album.
Your 2008 probably wasn’t as interesting as that of Joe Mount, Metronomy’s only permanent member. The release of Nights Out rocketed the band to a position of critical acclaim they have enjoyed ever since. Their new album looks back on this turbulent time with an ambivalent glance and some great tunes.
For the past two albums, Metronomy’s sound has benefited from the contributions of drummer Anna Prior, bassist Gbenga Adelekan and guitarist Oscar Cash. Their collaboration brought to fruition Metronomy’s most full-bodied albums: the 2011 Mercury Award nominated The English Riviera, followed three years later by Love Letters. As the first album since their debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) to be created solely by Mount, Summer 08 is quite the departure.
That this album was written and performed exclusively by Mount becomes almost comically apparent as he duets with himself on opener Back Together; it’s easy to miss Anna Prior’s sweet backing vocals, which never failed to light up previous Metronomy songs, but Mount on his own is what Summer 08 is all about. “Yeah, Monday looks quite good to me”, he sings, only to be answered by his own falsetto: “Monday looks quite good to me too”. On his own, and talking to himself, we find Mount at an introspective turn.
On Old Skool for example, Mount reflects on the west end rich kids he started running with back in the day, over a stone cold banger of a tune that over five minutes moves from minimalist funk to serious electronic groove. On Night Owl, reminiscing about a relationship, Mount recalls how ‘on the breakfast shows, all the FM radio hosts/ Keep playing Paparazzi’, and even delivers it in a subtle Lady Gaga pastiche in a moment of sweet levity. On Mick Slow he attempts the risky ‘being-on-tour-all-the-time-is-hard’ song like so many have done before him, but with enough abstraction to keep it from being boring and enough heart to ensure it stays affecting. As a listener, it’s as close as we’re likely to come to the ever slightly intangible Mount. Though undeniably honest, this portrait of his Summer 08 is nonetheless littered with eccentricities and impenetrable references that keep the listener at arm’s length.
That said, it’s not an album that sounds like 2008. Its influences are far more rooted in funk and new wave – the strange glitch pop of Talking Heads often comes to mind. Mount describes his approach to the album as: “Write another banger, then another, and don’t really think about it.” And bangers there certainly are. Lead single Old Skool is as groovy as anything they’ve ever done, and Night Owl is a song so danceable you feel it all the way down your spine as it powers its way to your hips. Hang Me Out to Dry, which features pop legend Robyn, is driven by a cool electronic beat that breaks through the ambient soundscapes.
Overall, while it’s a rather restrained album stylistically (there aren’t any sonic curveballs, the brittle funk and shallow soul sound is stuck to religiously throughout) that’s not to say Summer 08 is boring, far from it. In sticking so closely to the dancing-with-tears-in-my-eyes nostalgia aesthetic, Mount creates an album with serious atmosphere, that will carry you to a mood and leave you languishing in it for 37 minutes and 46 seconds, at the very least. Perhaps even for a whole summer.