Previously a nu-rave trio in the mould of Klaxons, Metronomy, the brainchild of Joseph Mount, have changed tack for their third studio album, The English Riviera, following the departure of original member Gabriel Stebbing three years earlier. Having permanently recruited the talents of bassist Gbenga Adelekan and former Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior, the follow-up to 2008's Nights Out, abandons their indie-disco sensibilities in favor of a more laid-back but equally idiosyncratic, sun-kissed sound which positions them as avant-garde purveyors in the vein of Saint Etienne rather than debauched glowstick wavers. But while its opening number, a 37-second snatch of cowing seagulls and distant waves lapping against the shore, may evoke the glamorous beaches of California, its remaining self-produced ten tracks are very much a love letter to both Mount's hometown of Totnes in Devon, and a romantic fantasy of the title's seaside resort he used to drive around in, blasting Ace of Base as a youth. While thankfully there aren't any attempts at European faux-reggae, there are nods to the rich and warm West Coast sounds of '70s Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles on the swaying, country-tinged "Trouble" and the ominous, fretless, bass-led "She Wants." But ultimately, as the title implies, the band's third album is unmistakably an English affair, and none more so than "Some Written," which kicks off with a shuffling end-of-the-pier waltz rhythm and the kind of old-fashioned Wurlitzer last heard in wartime ballrooms, before ending in a cavalcade of stylophones, cymbals, and even kazoos that sounds like a particularly clumsy one-man-band falling down the stairs. It's utterly bonkers, but fits right in when placed among the likes of "The Look," which borrows the hook from Perez Prado's "Guaglione" and fuses it with summery Beach Boys harmonies and archaic video game style synths, the lolloping Serge Gainsbourg-esque jazz-rock, and psychedelic guitar solos of "We Broke Free" and "Everything Goes My Way," a gorgeous '60s-inspired slice of cooing lounge-funk featuring the deadpan vocals of Veronica Falls' Roxanne Clifford. The band occasionally revert back to their more familiar electronic roots, such as on the ambient, Orbital-esque "Loving Arm," and the woozy synth wizardry of closing number "Love Underlined," but as sonically interesting as they are, they feel like slightly jarring interruptions to the album's underlying vaudeville nature. Relentless in its pursuit to soundtrack the uniqueness of the British summer, The English Riviera is a challenging but ultimately rewarding effort which cements Mount's reputation as one of Britain's most intriguing pop mavericks.
The English Riviera Review
by Jon O'Brien