Metronomy - Nights Out
Cut Copy, Late of the Pier, Does It Offend You Yeah? Not a week since reviewing Friendly Fires' debut, this year's flux of indie-friendly dance releases continues with Metronomy's Nights Out. The brainchild of Brightonite Joseph Mount, joined live onstage by two fellows who help out with instruments and an interesting approach to lighting, Metronomy are steadily gaining the kind of cool cred that an electronic act has to have before Kylie can ask for a freebie. Whether or not Mount opts for that route rests on the success of this second album, an unusual offering that could quite easily become a cult concern rather than a mega-hit.
An intro of plucked guitar and marching drums over shuddering electronic farts immediately sets a, shall we say, particular tone. I don't doubt some people who purchase this album will be going 'WTF?!' one minute in. Three minutes in, when a second instrumental, the barmy The End of You Too, kicks in, that 'WTF?!' will be said in a good way. With its sudden shifts in tone and tempo and - of all things - a harmonica riding over the top for the climax, this aims for Aphex Twin weirdness and comes up trumps. With a renewed sense of confidence in Mount, it's on to last year's single Radio Ladio. Uh-oh. When confronted with a pretty standard 'let's be arch' outing going for a D.A.N.C.E.-style femme singalong (and failing), the question of quality control simply has to arise.
Make no mistake: when Nights Out is good, it's really really good. Holiday features a big fat bassline nicked from late '70s New York, while My Heart Rate Rapid chanted vocals and scaling synths exhibit a Knife-like oddness. You're probably becoming familiar with Heartbreaker, officially this autumn's Breakout Pop Hit; initially, I found it annoying but there's no doubting that the deceptively simple chorus will catch on with fans of Hot Chip's brand of geek-pop. This affinity for eccentricity is what ruins the album for me, though. Frankly, A Thing For Me's imitation female vocals and desperate quirkiness contribute to nothing more than a try-hard mess. Meanwhile, the album's remaining instrumentals range from repetitive to downright irritating - On the Motorway's irritating synth motif sounds like it's been bashed out in a matter of seconds.
The best thing that can be said about Nights Out is that it's never nondescript. The uneven quality of the material sometimes borders on infuriating, yes, but it's not bland. At the very least, the concluding outro, employing a more organic approach save some requisite but spare electronic noises, suggests Mount could move into prog territory. If that's not his career plan, then I urge him to make more tracks like On Dancefloor. Reining in his excesses, this perfectly fine slice of streamlined synth-pop talks of 'disappointment on dancefloors', recognising the fact that many of the best dance tracks are based on longing and frustration. Ironically, seeing as it's an album highlight, this song features a forlorn vocal from Mount claiming 'I wanna get more from this'; if he sang that line on five or six of this album's other tracks, I would be agreeing.