Metronomy – ‘Small World’ review: the songwriting shines as brightly as ever

Frontman Joe Mount has stripped back the sonic setup for the band's romance-packed seventh album, but their playful spirit remains

It feels so good to be back,” Joe Mount beams on ‘It’s good to be back’, as Metronomy hit their stride three tracks into their seventh studio album ‘Small World’. He has every reason for optimism as the band head towards a busy summer doing what they’ve always done best: filling more sticky dancefloors and muddy fields with gloriously left-field bangers.

The five-piece are, after all, well-versed in such matters – they’ve been doing this for nearly two decades now, surviving the buzzy breakthrough of 2008’s ‘Nights Out’ and 2011’s anthem packed ‘The English Riviera’, all the way through to 2019’s aptly titled and adventurous ‘Metronomy Forever’.

One secret to their longevity has been gentle evolution; and it’s clear from the moving and somewhat mournful keys of opener ‘Life And Death’ that the band are heading towards pastures new once again. The contemplative ballad isn’t the blast of sunny pop we’d perhaps expect, making it clear that Mount has done some soul-searching throughout the pandemic as he sings over a hushed beat: “It was fun / What I did / Got a job / Had some kids / See you in the abyss.”

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With the existential gloom off his chest, it’s time for a thrilling gear-shift as the buoyant acoustic guitars of ‘Things Will Be Fine’ hit like a summer breeze. Suddenly the clouds clear as he reassures himself atop: “I might save the day / I might save the world / Things will be fine.” The glow flows on with ‘Love factory’, a track alive with the warmth of classic Metronomy as he sings: “Let’s climb the highest mountain range and forget just who we are.

Mount’s songwriting shines as brightly as ever during some of the release’s most candid moments – ‘Loneliness on the run’ is a reclined and vivid highlight. Though their sound has been pared down to acoustic basics, the band’s possibilities always feel untethered. Absent are the glossy keys and production that sealed the band as giants of the game, but their vibrant spirit is always on show – take the calculator-like synths that pinch through the riveting, Wilco-style groove of ‘Right on time’.

‘Hold me tonight’, a duet with Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin, comes off as a starry-eyed tribute to Mount’s love for his wife of 10 years, bustling with a grungy undertone. It’s yet another testament to how this band always move into new territory, flowing with confidence. ‘Small World’ might be the biggest diversion from their main stage sound to date, but it’s also one of the most heartfelt and rewarding. Metronomy, it’s good to have you back.

Details

Release date: February 18

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Record label: Because Music

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