A raft of upbeat, oft chaotic, synth-driven electro-pop albums emerged in 2008, not devised by a scene or even genre, just a unconscious collection of unashamedly "big" sounding albums that caught the party-fuelled imagination (Late of the Pier, Hot Chip, Cut Copy et al). Metronomy's Nights Out was one of these, but from the very first sound on third album The English Riviera it is apparent that this is not another such outing.
The sound of seagulls and sea washing up a shore greet the listener on the short intro that gives clues to the set-up for the next 40 minutes. Though it's the first proper track, 'We Broke Free', which makes very sure one is aware of the new direction. The vibe is massively warm, laidback and very much organic in nature; Joseph Mount (the brainchild of Metronomy) recruited two new full-time members to the band after brother Gabriel left to go full-time with Your Twenties, and with this more traditional band set-up we have perhaps a more traditional, less abrasive sound.
Gone for the most are the click-track electronic drums and barrage of wildly eclectic synth-toy noises, and once this initial shock is overcome, a finely-crafted buoyant is in store. "Thank God/The gold/Is mine" Mount repeats over and over in 'We Broke Free', before being drowned-out slowly in nostalgic swimming guitar reverb for the latter half of the track.
'Everything Goes My Way' is a gentle, subtle masterpiece that is very reminiscent of 'Broadcast', we even have a female singer; not Mount going all high-pitched and warped like
There's a consistency and maturity across the album in terms of texture and atmosphere, it effectively acts as a love-letter to his native South West, of an imagined summer in Torbay; hence, The English Riviera. In 'The Bay', a synth-driven dance floor gem of a track, Mount declares: "Cos this isn't Paris/And this isn't London/And it's not Berlin and it's not Hong Kong/Not Tokyo!, but never explicitly declaring where we are; but Mount doesn't need to, the strength of the astutely crafted inventive pop songs doing this on thier own.
It's not just the lyrics, but the delicate vocals that contribute to a glorious summer-pop care-free existence, Mounts' vocals containing a charming confidence and beauty to them (think Alexis Taylor, Hot Chip) 'The Look' a powerful demonstration of this. This summery aesthetic seems to take influence from West Coast US artists of the 70's such as The Eagles and Steely Dan, though merging these with a definite contemporary English sounding angle.
'She Wants' moves into darker territory. sure, the album is more downbeat overall though conversely not as cynical as Nights Out, an album that almost sneered at crap parties and dodgy nights out. No, we experience an earnest positivity here, even in brooding 'She Wants' mode as mentioned, that unnerving, drawn out synth-bass that drives the track even contains a suave feel.
There's an obscene amount of sun-kissed grooves present that contain more hooks than a Torbay fisherman's convention, it's a challenge to just talk about a specific number of tracks. Even in 'Trouble', a lovely minimal low-key 4/3 number daubed in old-school romanticism, it's difficult not to get caught up in a strut. And what's going on in 'Loving Arm'? Even in such a track on the arse-end of the album that you'd assume would drift into anonymous pleasantry after the first couple of listens, actually turn out to hold a genius. It's not going to be all over the radio (ladio), but it is an eccentric extraordinary gem of subtle infectious brilliance waiting to be discovered.
The English Riviera is Joseph Mount as Neil Cassidy behind the wheel; a brave, crazed and daring move going off the road from the previous norm, but such is his talent, it's in Mount we trust to reach our destination (unlike the nightmarish vision created in 'On the Motorway').
Literally every track has something going for it and contributes to the whole vibrant imagination of this part-fictitious summery world. A remarkable feat in consistency of content yet varied in clever execution, and thus to be sure to pop-up in a plethora of album of the year polls and deservedly so. Mount has shown the world what a magnificent and inventive young songwriter, producer and talent he is.