Metronomy - O2 ABC, Glasgow, Wed 19 Mar 2014
A few bum notes can't stop Joe Mount and co achieving the dreamy, the euphoric and the bittersweet
Try to create the perfect pop machine and you might come up with something not too far from Metronomy. But how to make this precision instrument perform live, with all the character and spirit required of a gig? As the very name suggests, Metronomy’s music is machine music, based to a large extent on the hypnotically repetitive, something it’s hard for humans to pull off with panache.
The first few tracks, taken from new album Love Letters and 2011’s The English Riviera, fall slightly flat, failing to live up to the ultra-slick, no-note-out-of-place production characteristic of Joseph Mount’s releases. On record, the new single after which the album is named is joyous and insanely catchy, but here it’s no more than mildly rousing. Similarly, ‘She Wants’ feels hurried and imprecise, lacking the gorgeously languorous sensuality of its recorded variant.
The upswing happens with ‘Holiday’, from breakthrough album Nights Out – a classic slice of Metronomial sonic escapism with all elements in place, from Olugbenga Adelekan’s bouncing slap bass to Anna Prior’s impossibly cheerful drumming, and that ever-present subtly bitter lyrical edge that keeps it from being ‘merely’ excellent dancing music. It’s swiftly followed by ‘Radio Ladio’, which gets a similarly elated reception. A couple of songs later, recent track ‘I’m Aquarius’ shines as a layering exercise, in which a simple drum machine beat and keyboard chord progression sit below the rest of the band’s sweet ‘shoop-doop-doop-aah’s and an urgent, almost breathless vocal solo from frontman Mount.
Later, ‘Boy Racers’ is a reminder that there’s at least one return to those driving, slightly manic instrumentals on Love Letters, its title picking up on a motif hinted at again and again in the band’s work – from the cover artwork of Nights Out to the engine purr of Adelekan’s bass as ‘Some Written’ gets started. In all, for all there’s occasional monotony and the lack of a finer touch, tonight Metronomy frequently achieve the dreamy, the euphoric and the bittersweet – sometimes even all in the same moment.