For all of the squalling guitar that starts The Two-Eared Man, Metronome's singing voice is actually crisp, clear, and straightforward, a nice touch in a world of lo-fi bedroom recordings that sometimes obscure everything possible for artistic effect. Not the case here, which is why this album of one-man-band efforts -- that's Metronome on drums, bass, guitar, effects, tweaking, the works -- maintains a nice tension between cleanliness and intimate, emotional delivery. If the songs themselves weren't any good, that'd be another matter, but The Two-Eared Man effortlessly conjures up a spare, gentle world of late-night ruminations and gentle reflections, something that could be appreciated by Young Marble Giants fans as much as, say, Lambchop ones. Nick Drake may be the most obvious reference point, but Metronome's tone if not his lyrical matters are generally lighter, and there's a little more overt playfulness in his songs, making them gentle rather than tortured. "25 (Where Is the Love)" balances the two sides admirably, the drone-y keyboard hook prompting a grin even while Metronome details a bit of romantic angst. At points there's a bit of cuteness for cuteness' sake -- thus the title of the otherwise quite fine "a.m. in the A.M." -- but these don't predominate. Some moments call up earlier roots -- "Learned to Forget" and "The Long Night #2" could easily be lost mid-period Beatles songs in ways, right down to the harmonies -- while two full cover versions also tip some hats. "Blue Moon" -- the Alex Chilton composition, in this case -- gets a flat-out lovely rendition, the arrangement of acoustic and watery, reverbed electric guitar perfect backing for the sad, collapsing melody. The old Broadway/pop standard "Where Are You," meanwhile, turns out to be a winsome treat in Metronome's hands, just as it should be.
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