Mostly uninspiring and even slightly annoying in its refusal to mature.
For many, the English electronic group Metronomy represents the sweaty, late-night, hipster environs of the previous decade and the beginnings of this one. Like a lot of similar acts from that moment (Hot Chip, Phoenix, !!!), Joseph Mount and company are now more likely to play in the background of an artisanal bakery or a craft brewery than in the sticky darkness of a dance floor. While the group’s fan base has grown up (and become at least slightly more responsible), Metronomy itself has not. Hence the name of the band’s newest album: Metronomy Forever. This is, more or less, the same band that eleven years ago brought us the playful, synth-laden tunes of Nights Out. They’re nothing if not reliable (and reliably catchy), but the LP is mostly uninspiring and even slightly annoying in its refusal to mature.
In fact, a couple of tracks are more than just a little off-putting. “Sex Emoji,” for one, takes Mount’s sometimes charming falsetto and wrings the shit out of it to produce a series of squeals about the need for (virtual) validation. “Love honey/ Sex money/ Text emojis/ Say you love me,” its refrain goes. It gives the impression of a man who has aged poorly without realizing he’s aged at all. When’s the last time someone’s asked you to “text emojis”? In whose head is such a request even a little bit sexy?
A song like “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” suggests that such antics are part of an elaborate, self-aware joke. Attraction and its expression, the song implies, are like a cheap yet trendy dessert: oh-so-disgustingly sweet. It hammers home this point with a ribbing, bouncy riff pulled wholesale from Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” The insistence that listeners laugh and dance along will likely make them want to go outside for a smoke break instead.
The album does excel when it tones things down a little and leaves the clowning aside. One pleasant surprise is that six of its 17 (!) tracks are squelching, slimy instrumental numbers that seem genuinely pensive. The best of these is “Forever is a Long Time,” which veers towards Oneohtrix Point Never territory in its drippy electronic textures and psychedelic channeling of Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England. While Metronomy has frequently included instrumental tracks on their albums, they seem especially important here for providing a break from the general goofiness of the other material on Metronomy Forever.
But it’s also pleasant to hear the album challenge what initially seems a simple division between exploratory instrumental and mind-numbing pop tune. Tracks like “Whitsand Bay” and “The Light” are just chilled-out enough to stay genuinely fun, even if their lyrics do describe a vexingly twee version of masculine insecurity: “Show me please/ How I can be the one,” Mount begs.
The album’s five-star highlight, closer “UR Mixtape,” also keeps things low-key and almost accidentally provides a template for the kind of record Metronomy can continue to make if the group is really going to stick around forever. Instead of imitating the breathless naivety of youthful desire, the song recounts a minor episode involving a run-in with the sibling of a girl to whom the singer had given a mixtape years ago. It turns out that her brother liked the music more than she did and now would like to come round and have a drink. The song, which hangs by a thread from a half-hearted drum pattern and some half-spoken lyrics but wanders its way towards windswept funk, is startling in its acknowledgment of human connection that’s all the more meaningful for its seeming haphazardness.
It’s tempting to re-read the whole of Metronomy Forever based on the sentiments of this final track. Perhaps all the juvenile sentiment is noticeably thin on purpose, all the better to reveal it as a desperate attempt to superimpose a childish template on a world that’s confusingly, beautifully random. Still, it’s just a little disappointing that these songs mostly lack the wisdom necessary to confront nuance and the rest of adult life with directness and honesty.