A band becomes a heritage act when its classic albums are honoured with anniversary reissues. Metronomy has released two tenth anniversary LP issues: their sophomore Nights Out in 2018 and their biggest selling to date: The English Riviera. With LP number seven Small World, the band has not delved into any niche EDM experiments; there has been a concerted effort to introduce guitars, organs, piano and occasionally non-synthetic drums.
As well as the musical direction, the album cover artwork has come full circle. Straying from Metronomy’s standard bright and brash illustrated covers. To feature an old photograph taken by Joseph Mount’s mother from the ‘90s of gardens near where he grew up in Totnes, south-west England. Being the first LP written from the comforts of Mount’s home, it is far less intense than previous offerings where Mount has spent more time in the “garden exploring and tending to nature”.
Opening with “Life and Death”, the listener enters a soothing crooner piano soundscape amidst quiescent electronic drum beats. Mount lyrically immediately delves into deep topics about life’s rites of passage. There is an expectation that the opener will develop with additional layers of production; instead, the status quo of the tranquil soundscape continues.
The instant, catchy indie pop-rock “Things Will be Fine” from the mellow opener follows. Whilst virtually devoid of EDM, this feel-good crowd-pleaser will become another Metronomy classic fans will want to dance to where Mount recalls both the weight of the World he felt when he was a teenager as well as how much easier life was then too.
“Loneliness on the Run” opens with deep haunting bass guitar and is piano-led amidst surprisingly comforting harmonies. This dark track discusses solitude, hurt feelings and being down on your luck. A unique track compared to the others on Small World is “I Lost My Mind”, which has a Ziggy Stardust vibe amidst Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets influences -especially the piano loops. The whistling is pleasant, but overall, Metronomy doesn’t imprint their personality here.
Fear not for fans drawn to Metronomy because of the perchance to electronic music; several of the nine tracks on Small World have EDM elements amidst instant upbeat pop songs. “It’s good to be back” is the most recognisable as being under Metronomy’s ownership. Whilst there are discreet guitars, “It’s good to be back” is delightfully positive, perfect for the summer and escapism from the present geopolitical reality.
“Right on Time”, which had a hybrid of melodic guitars and occasional synths, reaches its feel-good summer crescendo when strings are introduced and plays out with calypso organ. Whilst “I Lost My Mind” looked to the 1970s, “Hold Me Tonight” ventured into the 1980s to produce a clear pop sound. “Love Factory”, which exceeds five minutes, offers interesting lyrics about bucket lists but is slightly elongated for an uncomplicated organ-led pop song.
Small World, in many ways, does what a Metronomy is supposed to do: create excellent dance music and feel-good escapism. It goes one step further and does this without being beholden to EDM elements and allowing non-digital instruments to join as equal partners. Metronomy also intelligently attempt to be philosophical. Several lines stand out, such as the playouts “I have seen enough, but I just can’t look away”. However, the musical backdrops occasionally fail to act as a crutch for these lyrics, which don’t act like siren songs to lure listeners in who, as a result, remain emotionally unaffected.