METRONOMY are back, plying the distinctive trade of smooth synth and seductive falsetto that got the Devon-based band nominated for the Mercury Prize back in 2011. The four person group, led by Joseph Mount, have grown in stature and popularity due to their poppy and effortlessly cool sound over the last few years, but the upcoming March release, Love Letters, represents somewhat of an understated effort.
The album opens up with ‘The Upsetter’, a song that hints at the simplicity and verve that has come to define the group: a few wandering guitar riffs of cool delicacy overlaying a steady acoustic strum and the melancholy refrain “You’re really giving me a hard time, tonight”.
This song sets the tone of the album: if the mercury-nominated Riviera was the Technicolor sound of a cider fuelled barbeque on a rare Devon summer’s day, then this is a murky house party, with all the highs and lows. The middle of the album feels and sounds like the songs that didn’t quite make it into MGMT’s Congratulations.
The album reaches its catchiest peak with ‘Love Letters’. The title song punches out the trumpet fuelled hook with enthusiasm, but it feels slightly forced, slightly repetitive, slightly not quite right. There’s an essence of ABBA which dates horribly, there’s an element of pushing too hard for a standout song. ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’ is lyrically entertaining, but that’s about all that can be said for it.
In contrast, ‘Reservoir’ simply glides through melodies with the fusion of guitar, bass and oscillating synth that we all craved from this album. The longing-filled and ambitious ‘Never Wanted’, leaves the album a little flat and melancholy, with the sadness-tinged refrain “does it get better?”.
It’s a shame you leave the album feeling that they’ve returned to an electronic sound that does not sit well in comparison with the four piece’s previous outing. In fact, it’s hard to tell that this is a band outing, the depth of sound has been reduced so. Whilst melodies zigzag up and down, in a distinctly bubbly Metronomy trademarked fashion, they carry almost none of the oomph behind them. It feels like Oscar Cash and Gbenga Adelekan have been told to tone it down, and the result is a rather disappointing medley of songs that feel either dated already, or instantly forgettable bar one or two joyous exceptions. It may grow on me, and it isn’t a terrible album by any stretch, it’s just not the album anyone was anticipating.