‘The English Riviera’ was Metronomy’s most successful album yet – Mercury-nominated and critically lauded. Yet even that was nothing like their previous two. And so ‘Love Letters’ is something different again, influenced predominantly by the 60s and 70s, psychedelia and Sly Stone. It’s also an album that could see them go stratospheric.
Because its lack of slickness and idiosyncrasies are where its charm lies. It’s an album which veers between 70s gospel and primitive electro and drum machines. Part of the reason for this is the decision to decamp to East London’s famously retro Toe Rag and record on analogue. It has lead to a record where there’s nothing you could call a central style but somehow it hangs together as their most cohesive.
It begins with ‘The Upsetter’s’ story of listening to Deacon Blue and ‘Sleeping Satellite’, an acoustic strum mixing with a battered drum machine, Mount singing falsetto. It’s an unexpected yet touching start.
If that was unexpected, then the 60s and 70s inspired singles, ‘I’m Aquarius’ and ‘Love Letters’, should have prepared you. It’s Metronomy at their simplest and most streamlined but also their most odd. ‘Love Letters’, in particular is an irresistible honky tonk 70s dance number, just done in Metronomy’s distinctive way. It basically demands its own Saturday Night Fever-inspired dance routine. It even has a sax breakdown.
Then there’s the computer game electro of ‘Boy Racers’, which could have been taken from ‘Nights Out’, ‘Never In A Month of Sundays’ with its Motown choir outro and ‘The Reservoir’, all squelchy synths and nautical metaphors about ‘heartbeats drifting together’. All of this shouldn’t really work, but it really does. There’s even an ode to Connan Mockasin’s hair on ‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’ which was originally planned as a duet with the interestingly-coiffed Kiwi singer.
Metronomy may have left the English Riviera but where they’ve landed now is somewhere only they could find: cast adrift, following their own path, and as ‘I’m Aquarius’ suggested, only having the glitter of the stars in the sky to guide them.
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