Nights Out is the latest electro assault from the UK's growing brigade of squelch pop bands, joining the ranks of the Chap, Late of the Pier, and other synth sadists making NME giddy and audiophiles want to remove their frontal lobes. That's not to reduce Brighton's Metronomy to a fad, especially since they've proven their mettle on dozens of high-profile remixes and their own impressive singles. The transition from producer to album-oriented act, however, remains tricky for them. Their 2005 debut, Pip Paine (Pay the 5,900 (£5000) You Owe), incongruently forced together delicate dancefloor pop and harsh rock touches. And while Nights Out better corrals these influences, creating a much more cohesive album, it still suffers from a lack of consistency.
Metronomy singer/producer Joseph Mount describes this album as a soundtrack to a tumultous weekend, and sure enough, there's plenty of drink-fueled lust, driving, partying, and of course, dancing. It's no surprise, then, that two songs about cardiac health-- "My Heart Rate Rapid" and "Heartbreaker"-- contain the majority of the album's hooks. The former is a ramp-up to Metronomy's bacchanalian rager, its chipmunk vocals speeding up lockstep with the disco pulse. "Heartbreaker" immediately follows, squashing those increased serotonin levels, with Mount's effects-free vocal performance recalling Junior Boys vocalist Jeremy Greenspan's breathy bedroom croon. The resulting ballad, effective enough to tame the otherwise ADD production, provides an emotional comedown that also gives the listener's ears a breather.
Unfortunately, Metronomy can't maintain the momentum. Throughout the album, they sprinkle cute instrumental interludes that feel more like production exercises than effective segues. The vocals don't exactly carry their weight, either. With the exception of "A Thing for Me"'s excited cat calls, Mount douses his voice in self-conscious irony (and studio effects) to the point of near-total detachment. It'd be unfair to expect Metronomy to match the hooks of similar acts like Hot Chip or LCD Soundsystem, but even those groups manage to give the heartstrings an occasional tug, whereas tracks like "Back on the Motorway" or "On Dancefloors", two of the more tender moments here, simply seem to ponder how kooky 80s music was.
Then again, these drawbacks don't make Nights Out any less appropriate a soundtrack to clubbing adventures, pub crawls or one-night stands. Although uneven, some of these random spurts seem to disorient intentionally, like Side 2, the dark intermission track that ushers in the album's, uh, darker second side. Yet the frenzied first half showcases Metronomy's strengths right off the bat: glitzy glam rock guitars butting heads with stubborn electro beats, neurotic disco paeans, and loads of synths. Nights Out may turn in a little too early, but for about three songs, it wrests synth pop supremacy from Metronomy's many competitors.
Adam Moerder, November 13, 2008