I am a Metronomy original. Which isn’t a biker gang – it just means that I have been along for the ride since the early days; way back with the 2006 debut album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe). In my mind, there are two Metronomy’s: the wonderful, life bettering Metronomy – 2008’s Nights Out and 2011’s The English Riviera – and then there’s everything-since Metronomy. That is not to say that 2014’s Love Letters and 2016’s Summer 08 weren’t well-received by many. They were. Just not by me. As you can see, I am already laying the caveated groundwork that Joe Mount has been playing catch-up to his ridiculously unassailable standards ever since 2011, so sixth album Metronomy Forever was almost on a hiding to nothing.
It took me a couple of runs to get into the headspace of this record, but the early signs from the opening tracks were actually very good. ‘Whitsand Bay’ is an unabashed nod back to The English Riviera days with its summery funk bassline, while ‘Insecurity’ is probably the best track on the album. Tracks that in isolation previously didn’t seem to connect take on an entirely new air in the context of the record (hey, PR people: just the kill the single, already). For reasons I couldn’t winkle out, the glitter gold disco toe-tap of ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’ previously drove me physically nuts. In its proper place, it breathes and pulses and brings shimmery life to the album. We’re only four tracks in. Metronomy are truly back!
Hmm, not quite.
From here, the album loses all coherence. It’s almost that sudden. Like a heavyweight going great guns, only to be taken clean out in the fourth. There are constant changes in style, and countless interlude breaks that leave the record to stutter and limp without a destination. It seems that Mount wanted to create a record of experience; something for the listener to immerse into, but the sheer level of clutter and nuance changes make it difficult to stay interested. Sure, nobody wants A to B music anymore and that includes me. Listeners want multi-genre, they want experimentation. But they also want chemistry and cohesion and Forever is never one thing or another long enough to achieve that.
Forever is 17 tracks long and yes, some are interludes, but even so, the record feels like a slog that it needn’t have been. There are some tracks that no amount of blind love for Joe Mount is going to bring me ‘round to. ‘Sex Emoji’ is top of that list. I can only describe it as a Pharrell Williams parody. It is painfully grating. ‘Miracle Rooftop’ is a chill-wave experiment gone wobbly and again hampers any kind of flow to the record.
I’m positive that there are all kinds of bold, existential ideas behind the short interludes that pervade Forever but most simply feel unnecessary. Some sound like someone nonchalantly fucking around pressing all the different buttons they know.
In preparation for this record, Mount apparently returned to the laptop that housed all the original works for Nights Out, setting up Forever as a kind of symbolic sequel. And you can totally hear it in parts. ‘The Light’, a luscious lapping electronic number, is a fine example. Lead single ‘Lately’ and ‘Upset My Girlfriend’ likewise. Unfortunately, knowing this information also serves to hamper the record further, as you begin to feel that you’re listening to a Nights Out B-side collection.