February 15, 2020
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Salt Lake City, UT 84102
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Hey, did you ever notice how Metronomy, the Joe Mount-fronted electronic indie pop group releasing their sixth album Metronomy Forever this September, sounds a bit like time keeping tool ‘metronome’? You did? Boy oh boy.
The metronome reference was but a musical in-joke before: now it contains more meaning. The steady tick-tocking of the pendulum represents continuation, stability, endlessness, and consistent familiarity. It understands that while we all ultimately return to the goo from whence we came, time marches on furiously, like a bull aiming for a matador. Your last breath will be another click on the machine.
Metronomy Forever in name represents a similar ethos: something looking backwards and forwards simultaneously, like Janus, something fated and eternal. You were made from dust and to dust you will return, that sort of thing.
“What happens is when you’re making music and you enter a world where you have achieved some sort of celebrity no matter how large or small you start to think about yourself in terms of legacy and what you’re going to leave behind,” says Mount. “And then you realise that’s limited to the interest people have in you. In the end I feel completely comfortable with it. The less importance you place in any art the more interesting it can become in a way… I’m making music, I’m going to do some concerts, I need to feed my children.”
Metronomy Forever is the follow-up to 2016’s Summer 08, and contains 17 tracks. Its length is born from a desire for breathing room, from not wanting to stuff the hits together like a bouquet of petrol station roses. In between the sauna-sweat-soaked funk of songs like It’s Automatic, and the beach funeral of Walking In The Dark, lie pretty, glistening ambient tracks. It evokes the feeling of being sat in a nursing home, Swiss-cheese-brained, recalling joyous flashes of a past life while the fugue states of comforting confusion wash over you.
It also comes from a desire to replicate the feeling of listening to the radio, with sumptuous songs of different types and styles helping lighten your mood, and stifle retches as you inhale scrambled egg steam from the saucepan you’re scrubbing. “The radio never stops,” as Joe puts it. “It doesn’t really matter how emotionally deep the music that comes on is, it’s entirely your situation that gives the music it’s emotional leaning.”
“For so long I was concentrating on trying to make these snappy songs, and when they were all sat together it didn’t make for some impressive thing. It wasn’t until I started thinking about the past several years, realising that in that time there’ve been periods of drifting, and looking around for ideas. When I started including these bits of instrumental music and bits of sound, to which I genuinely felt some kind of connection, I put them in amongst these little flowers.”
Flowers are apt metaphor. Mount has moved away from the bustle of his former Parisian home to take up residence atop a hill in the garden of England. It was a necessary change, he says, and one that has soldered a bond with him and nature.
“I think it has everything to do with me at the moment, being in this environment – and I literally mean the environment. I feel properly more connected with nature. And I’m embracing myself getting into it, because I think it’s a really important part of being a person – and I haven’t even read that Sapiens book.”
And a good thing he hasn’t, as it seems Sapiens has been widely discredited by academics the world over.
Metronomy Forever is a record that exudes a green tranquillity. Mount was concerned that the relative happiness of his existence might stifle his creativity, having no great tragedy to draw from, but discovered the opposite was true.
“To be jealous of having that stuff going on is a bit dangerous,” he says. “I look at successful musicians who, as they get older, struggle to remain relevant. I’m at this point where I feel like, my attitude towards what I do is healthy. With this record I wanted to make a very pure expression of what I’m about right now, and I think for me that makes for better music.”
And while the music itself promotes a sense of calm joy, it’s in the lyrics that we remember that even idyllic circumstances require their own maintenance, an oiling of the cogs to keep them crunching along. Mount reminds us of this on Lately, desperately singing “That is love and it's hard to do, it's a job for two. What do I do if I don't get nothing from you?”
It’s not just the physical space and distance from stress and life on the Rue De Dogshit in the French capital that has had its effect on the creative process. Mount spent much of the last four years working with Robyn on her acclaimed and deeply personal record Honey. 48 months of vicarious agony was exhausting, but ultimately extremely fulfilling.
“In the space of time since the last Metronomy record I’ve had a very large part in writing an album based on a traumatic experience for her. I knew the whole experience was going to be this massive cathartic thing. When it got to the point of finishing, I remember telling her how good it was and how people are really going to respond to it in the way you want them to. Working with someone and being able to tell someone that is quite an enjoyable thing, being able to know that everything’s cool. It’s a nice feeling to have.”
Those glimmers of emotional, intense, carnal mania seem to have rubbed off on Mount in their own way, too. On Sex Emoji, the subconscious throbbing purple of the erotic digitised aubergine comes to life, a refrain of ‘love, honey, sex, money’ sang in a coital squeal.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream brings this to the fore too, but more in the vein of Lipps Inc’s Funkytown, and evokes the sapid pleasure and delights of love, but also the panics and anxieties (‘Oh god, she’s coming, don’t look up’).
But when the shagging is over you’re left only with the despair of your sweaty reflection. The moments of pain and sadness on Metronomy Forever are just as real, but also surmountable, much like most of the torture of existence ultimately is. It’s the scope of experience of someone who has decided that agony, while perhaps a good palette from which to scrape your paints, is just not really that much fun. We’re here for a good time, not a long time, and, as Homer Simpson once said, “You could wake up dead tomorrow.” Get on your hands and knees, plunge your fingers in the soil and scream thanks at the moon for making the waves crash warm foam at the feet of our children.