Review Summary: Joseph Mount's brainchild Metronomy return with an eclectic mix of experimental pop that has deservedly earned them a mercury award nomination.
Joseph Mount, the man behind Metronomy, hails from Totnes in Devon. This may come as a surprise due to the location-less indie-disco styling’s of his earlier music, but the third Metronomy album sees him carefully hone in on the charms of southwest England. The market town in question is re-imagined as (a different/fantasy) the English Riviera, a romantic destination where beauty exists and magic happens –apparent from the get-go, with the sound of cawing seagulls that commence proceedings.
Given three years to plot a follow-up, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount isn’t one to spend most of that time consuming his body weight in MDMA before splurging out a record that’s the same as the previous one but louder and more radio-friendly. It certainly helps that The English Riviera not only could be, but actually is the work of a changed band to that which delivered Nights Out. The new rhythm section of Anna Prior and Gbenga Adelekan bring to Metronomy’s arsenal a fluidity and a sense of space and grasp of dynamics that in turn has allowed Mount’s songwriting to breathe, relax and become increasingly expressive.
The musicality of leading man Joseph Mount is evident throughout the record. Whereas most music revolves around a series of lights and shades and rises and falls, “We Broke Free” demonstrates just one dramatic rise in musical timbre and texture, before a sudden decline around the three minute mark, before ending with a simple guitar solo. It recalls elements of experimental music of early twentieth century classical works. Combining the two styles of experimental and a modern vocal style again creates this wonderful example of musical hybridity and quality.
The lowlights on The English Riviera are rare. “Trouble’s” tart vocals head wistfully into a swaying doo-wop beat, with typically elegant lyrics such as the charming tautology of "There’s a tear in your eye / And there’s no ‘I’ in tear". And that brings it back to the familiar; Mount’s strengths as a songwriter come from his willingness to show off, however much he may be aware of this.
It’s easily understandable to see why the album has been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize this year. It’s creative, it’s interesting and it’s melodious. Furthermore, it’s a body of work; as opposed to a jumble of songs will little or no connectivity. However, whether or not The English Riviera has the influence and content to win the prize is another question altogether. It would perhaps serve as a shock-win, though the Mercury Prize awarding panel wouldn’t dream of picking a winner through thirst for surprise. Lead man Joseph Mount’s recent production works with Nicola Roberts and Sophie Ellis-Bextor prove that he’s ready to propel himself, and his band away from the niche and into the mainstream. A Mercury Prize win would be the perfect way to do this.