Friday, July 29th, 2011

Metronomy – The Bay

If you dislike dismal or at least overrated seaside locales, there’s this:


Sally O’Rourke: I’ve never been to Torbay, but I gather from “The Bay” that its designation as “the English Riviera” is viewed with some degree of irony. But the song’s soft rock falsetto and “This isn’t Paris/And this isn’t London” refrain aren’t just tongue-in-cheek digs at the harbor’s provincialism; they’re the type of jokes made to avoid discussing the uncomfortable truth. The relationship at the heart of “The Bay” is in crisis, but at least one of the parties refuses to admit it. He pleads for another summer in the bay, as if he could restore the past by reenacting it, as if his lover weren’t growing restless, impatient for more exotic climes, in need of a bigger world than he can provide. All of which sounds like “The Bay” should be a sopping wet dishrag, but Metronomy leaven the pathos with piss-taking and impeccable grooves. Heartbreak is there if you want it; if not, there’s that bassline.

Edward Okulicz: Metronomy’s off-kilter style, here rhythmic but oddly calmative, has gradually been winning me over through successive singles and Joseph Mount’s outside production work. “The Bay” represents them at their most compelling; it’s a great tune, for starters, the woozy chorus is like a clinically depressed ELO/Human League mongrel and the verses’ speak-singing make the simple lyrics evocative — of dismal English beaches, ennui, heartbreak, nostalgia, whatever you want them to be. Best of all, the loping bassline gives it life and movement, nowhere near propulsive enough to be floor-shaking, but enough to give the hips as much reason to sigh as the heart.

Zach Lyon: I don’t find this quite as good as their previous one, but hey, I also never expected they would ever grow in stature beyond one really great Breakbot remix. “The Bay” barely sounds like a song if you’re not paying attention — its parts all meld together with a sort of intentional artistry that wants to exceed simple structure. Timely, with all those McCartney pieces recently; this sounds like a direct descendant of Paul’s late 70s output, especially London Town and Back to the Egg, with their falsetto harmonies and hard disco posturing.

Kat Stevens: Despite growing up in a London suburb many miles from the coast, I have completely fallen for the gentle, complex whirl of Metronomy’s The English Riviera and its small-town seaside mindset. Most of the tracks are less lively than “The Bay” — sleepy harmonies rudely interrupted by queasy fairground rides and the odd punch-up outside the chippy, irresistible siren-calls from the mostly-annoying girlfriend that you can’t quite bring yourself to dump, everyone going round in circles and making the same mistakes. “The Bay” is the sore thumb of the album, the urge to break free of the cycle, the Patrick McGoohan character in The Prisoner. His neighbours seem perfectly content with their captivity and by accident or design always seem to scupper his repeated attempts to leave (indeed on occasion it is Patrick himself that unwittingly foils his own escape plans). To make things worse, the freedom and variety of Patrick’s previous life as a jet-setting sports-car-driving spy contrasts hugely with the slow, repetitive pace of The Village. The closest experience I’ve had to this was going back to live at my parents’ house after my post-university travels: skint, trapped, unable to leave without money, unable to get money without leaving (no graduate jobs with less than an hour’s commute), arguing with Mum about not having any firm plans and wishing I was still exploring Europe. But this isn’t Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong or even proper London – you are Number 6 this is Zone 6 and you will never escape. 

Anthony Easton: Elegant, louche, and pleasurably cosmopolitan, while refusing the standard narratives of cosmopolitan (you can dance on yachts in your mind, or at least in Devon) with a glorious chorus and an epic, Tangerine Dream-esque denouement.

Brad Shoup: When Metronomy namecheck various jetsetting capitals, it’s just as shameless as when Huey Lewis & Co. did the same. In this case, though, it’s to add a rich-dude frisson to yet another bloodless electronic-rock song. A James Murphy influence looms over the phrasing and text; the baroque disco could very well be the result of having the concept of Sparks described via telegram. Pitch-perfect blogfodder.

Michaela Drapes: A proper, charming Italodisco homage absent the bizarre complications of trying to make faux Eurosleaze. Sure, there’s requisite high hats and popping disco octaves and detached, bored vocals and a perfectly strange guitar bridge, all layered over a grand, puffy synth smash. But there’s something else, too — a quiet dose of Englishness, a shimmering glamor with heart — that makes it all work just so. 

Jer Fairall: “Don’t You Want Me” relationship drama stripped to the bone by Gang of Four bass-y minimalism.  An intriguing post-modern experiment in theory, though in execution it never finds much reason for existing beyond the singer’s charmingly arch delivery of “you said everything about it moved on your career.” 

Rebecca Toennessen: I always thought Devon was a beautiful, sun-drenched holiday destination, but the Metronomy dudes have made a brilliant concept album all about how it’s shit and depressing, and like quicksand powered by pure ennui, it sucks you in and traps you. Defining a place by what it’s not works wonderfully, as do the detached vocals. This song reminds me in a weird way of the brilliant new Man Man album — springy, bouncy songs which are still about death and misery. This song has been a staple of the Six Music playlist for a while now, and deservedly so.  

7 Responses to “Metronomy – The Bay”

  1. I found unfortunately that most concept albums about how shit and depressing a place is tend to have that rubbing off on the music itself, and a quick scan of the Metronomy album confirms that. Its pretty, but feels really rather down.

  2. I just tabbed over to Lansing-Dreiden’s site and sighed.

  3. Aw, man. Lansing-Dreiden. They haven’t done anything new in eons. :/

  4. Torbay’s actually quite pleasant.

  5. several members of Lansing-Dreiden are now in the band Violens, who put out their first album last year; it’s got some really nice stuff on it though a bit uneven to my ears.

  6. That is a helpful tip!

  7. I actually named Violens’ Amoral my #1 of 2010 in The Awl!

    I’m not sure I would stand by that now, but it seemed as good a pick as any?