Label: Mannequin Records Release date: 29/11/10 Link: Official Site First things first, The Ballad of the Metronomes is not a best of, or indeed a compilation album for that matter. It must be said that this isn’t a band that this particular writer was familiar with, and so significant research had to be done. From what a detailed search on the internet can discover, this particular release is a project engineered by Mannequin Records to re-release both the albums of 1980s Australian minimalist electronic pioneers The Metronomes (with a couple of other 7” thrown in), with the aim of reviving a band that did a lot for the rise of electronic music in their home country but who’s success didn’t transfer over to Europe. Intriguingly, the fact that it is organised album by album, instead of in a random haphazard manner as some ‘best of’ albums are, means that you can get a sense of how the band’s sound involved over the years. The Metronomes were active for only around six years but still this is a band covering genres from minimalist synth-pop in a Kraftwerk vein to leftfield and towards the end of their career, post-punk influences can definitely be heard. The Ballad of The Metronomes contains the two LPs, Multiple Choice (1980) and Regular Guys (1985), plus the two seven inch singles ‘Saturday Night/Sunday Morning’ (1980) and ‘A Circuit Like Me’ (1980). History lesson over, it’s now time for the music. Whilst the collection on offer from Multiple Choice is much more minimalist, the tracks from Regular Guys are more poppy. Given that this is one bands collection grouped into one record, it is probably only fair to judge them as they would individually have been at the time. ‘Justification/Bad Timing’ is arguably the strongest from Multiple Choice, quite expertly remastered into one track that shows of the best electronic music can offer, gleaming and soaring with bleeps and sounds that are incredibly well crafted together. In addition ‘A Living Person’ offers a different element altogether, a disinterested, mysterious and spooky female vocal layered over siren-like sounds that really is an outstanding piece of songwriting. Overall, though, Multiple Choice is incredibly leftfield and instrumental and seems more like an experiment in what music can be, rather than how it can make people feel, which is what really makes a great record. In terms of Regular Guys, it is much more poppy – there are more vocals and it is arguable it’s much more accessible. Standout songs include ‘Deluxe Service Station’ but overall the tracks tend to blend into one a bit and it definitely shows how the band’s sound suffered from the five year gap in album releases – although perhaps more accessible, it’s definitely not as ‘out there’ as the earlier releases. For anyone interested in the history of the new-wave era, The Ballad of the Metronomes this is an essential collector’s item. It is easy to see their link to seminal new-wave and post-punk bands such as Kraftwerk, Joy Division and even Gang of Four, yet they are no way near as well-known. If seen purely in these terms, then it is hard to see what is wrong with this re-release. It makes the music of an acclaimed band much more available, and on a wider scale, it brings up questions of what other bands history has lost and who have been consigned to cult followings when actually they were just as talented as some of the other bands that gained success during this era. However, in terms of pure musical quality, in many points it’s quite unlistenable. Ironically, considering the problem we often have with modern music being too overproduced, it is arguably this which makes a lot of The Ballad of the Metronomes quite challenging in terms of pure musical enjoyment. There is no doubt into the talent and creativity of The Metronomes – they pushed a lot of boundaries and clearly influenced a lot of people and I’m in no doubt that the fact it was so challenging was a good thing for music as a whole. However, as this is a re-release, sentimentality should be put aside and when judged purely in terms of the music it offers, it’s not exactly the most listenable record released in 2010. Photobucket