Like their closest contemporaries Wild Beasts and Everything Everything, Metronomy never really ‘broke through’. In a music scene which has become increasingly blurred and amorphous, a straightforward and cuddly indie band with a thin, reedily-voiced frontman seems like an afterthought for mainstream success. In spite of that, they have been remarkably consistent in their output: after a couple of albums which were erroneously placed among the nu-rave scene of the late 2000s, they peaked with the lovely, earnest The English Riviera in 2011, and the underrated, arguably superior Love Letters 3 years later. Last year’s album, Summer 08, thematically focused on nostalgia for their early days, it wasn’t exactly a disappointment but lacked the punch of their earlier work, although it was their most cohesive and succinct album to date.
An 8pm starting time risked dampening the vibe, but they were an exciting opener to the riveting, if sonically all-over-the-place Simple Things Festival. Tonight’s set was new album-heavy, which varied in engagement depending on what you were here to see: Hang Me Out to Dry was only slightly less interesting without Robyn singing the chorus, but the sucker punch of Back Together, Miami Logic and Old Skool was a thrilling start. Joe Mount was a riveting frontman, tonight all in white and speaking as if he’d popped a Xanax with Smirnoff Ice, which he appeared to drink with gusto across the night.
Despite their immense presence, the songs threatened to drag by the middle: I’m Aquarius and Mick Slow were given lumbering, baffling arrangements, and the comparative weakness of their newer material began to show by the 45-minute mark. But all of this was forgiven when The Look’s thrilling synth line was played, sending a pleasingly diverse crowd into mayhem. Love Letters too was given a rousing, raucous treatment, with the brilliant Anna Prior giving the song the full marching band treatment. The excellent Everything Goes My Way closed things off, with appropriately jarring, slightly sinister form.
It is fascinating how Metronomy are already enough of a legacy act to open a festival, but they proved themselves well. The strength of Metronomy has always been in their polite, bordering on MOR quality, and they delivered on that promise with hammy glee.
Photo: Eric Deguin