I believe this new album by Metronomy, “The English Riviera”, may well be out today, which means I’m pretty late at getting round to it. Truth be told, I didn’t pick it up for a while; not having hugely positive, or even particularly clear, memories of their previous records.
“The English Riviera”, though, is actually pretty lovely. It’s achingly self-conscious in that rarely appealing British indie/electropop way, for sure, but here Joseph Mount and his band seem to have hit on a nicely-crafted concept, of sorts. “The English Riviera” refers to Mount’s West Country homeland (Torbay and so on, I think), and seeks to invoke it while at the same time drawing on the blue skies and rich ironies of ‘70s Californian rock.
As a consequence, the press release talks some about Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, which is stretching it a bit, and also Steely Dan, which makes more sense in the sunny, anal precision of it all, albeit a very Anglicised, prissy, synthesised reboot of Steely Dan.
Perhaps this doesn’t sound that appealing. Better to see “The English Riviera”, perhaps, as an English equivalent to some of Phoenix’s earlier records; as a rather fey, indie, surprisingly successful channelling of those lush West Coast vibes. Once the opening seagulls and waves have passed, Mount sets off on a run of hugely engaging little songs. “We Broke Free” has that tentative rush familiar from Phoenix’s early records in particular, while “Everything Goes My Way”, co-fronted by drummer Anna Prior, is a fragile and lovely duet, that works as a kind of dappled correlative to the xx album.
Best of all, there’s “The Look”, surfing in on a wave of seaside organ and initially sounding like a coda to “Everything Goes My Way”, before locking into a sort of genteel re-imagining of a techno build, which climaxes with an ecstatic solo on something which might just be a keytar.
By this point, the slightly dreamy mood is established, which rolls on in an entirely likeable way for the rest of the record. There are odd little touches, mostly pleasant: “She Wants”, for instance, is the track that draws more or less inevitably on the ‘80s most prominently, but has the good grace to base its sound – in the verses, at least – on Japan circa “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”, or maybe “Quiet Life”.
“The Bay”, meanwhile, is another gushing flashback to Phoenix, perhaps specifically to my favourite of their albums, “Alphabetical”. That record is one I routinely turn to when the sun comes out, and I get the feeling that “The English Riviera” might work in much the same way. Suspect it’s going to be pretty ubiquitous, insidiously, too: if you’ve spent the last 18 months cueing up tracks from the xx album to soundtrack every other trailer, ad, TV scene and so on, now might be the time to move on…