Losing to PJ Harvey must be about as galling as coming second at Scrabble to Stephen Fry – a foregone conclusion that’s unlikely to give Joe Mount sleepless nights. Indeed, he can feel pretty pleased with himself, because if ‘Let England Shake’ clinched the World Cup, then Metronomy’s ‘The English Riviera’ is at the apex of indie’s Premier League.
Like their Brit contemporaries The Horrors and Wild Beasts elsewhere in the top five, Metronomy are on album number three. Such is our nation’s propensity to murder our bands in the crib, these acts might not have made it this far if they’d paid attention to how their debuts were perceived in some quarters. But their presence so high in this list is a victory for the slow and steady growth which cultivates the self-assurance required for unique records – see ‘The English Riviera’, which transformed Torbay into an exotic paradise. Joe and Polly Harvey hail from the same stretch of shale, but whereas ‘Let England Shake’ succeeded thanks to its wide-ranging dramatic narrative, ‘The English Riviera’ is a fantastical first-person view on embracing and shaking off familiar trappings.
It’s a masterpiece in reservation. The lyrics are tempered ruminations on feeling like a big fish in a small-town pond, or rides on the quiet seesaw of romance. There are no bombastic declarations of breaking out of Dodge, or flares of heat under the collar, and the spare, trademark synths balance Gallic cool with English oddness, only ever cutting loose on ‘The Bay’ – arguably one of the few songs where lyrics about feeling “so gooooooood” genuinely induce that giddy sensation in the listener.
‘The English Riviera’’s utterly absorbing understatement recalls a scene from F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby where Daisy simply tells its titular hedonist, “You always look so cool,” inadvertently betraying a deep-set love affair. Much of this album concerns the simple joy of feeling like you and a lover share a kingdom, no matter where that is.
On ‘We Broke Free’, Mount tentatively croons “Thank God the gold is mine” as he leads a lady around town. He can rest easy that not only did he get the gold and the gal in the end, but that he and his band end the year bathing in much-deserved glory. LS
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The band will play Glasgow, London and Manchester on the stretch
Frontman also speaks about grant his band received as part of the Music Export Growth Scheme
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