Love Letters is being widely touted as the album that may tip Metronomy into the big league.
After the critical and commercial success of 2011’s Mercury-nominated The English Riviera, and a US tour supporting Coldplay, the thinking is that now could be the band’s time to leap from cult status to the mainstream. However, Love Letters rather blitzes that theory.
Last year saw Foals embrace a similar challenge with both hands with the vibrant, vivacious Holy Fire. In stark contrast, Metronomy have taken one look at the wider world outside of the indie-rock margins and scuttled timorously back into their comfort zone.
Love Letters is a mimsy, knock-kneed album. It’s not original, you can’t sing along and you certainly couldn’t dance to it. These fussy, picky songs frequently sound like a progressive-rock band trying to play bubblegum pop, and are every bit as horrible as that sounds.
The Upsetter signals their retreat from the last album’s hint of arena-filling status as Joseph Mount whines, “Back on the Riviera, it gets so cold at night.” The title track could be Hot Chip, but only if Hot Chip subverted their best material with ironic trumpet reveilles. Monstrous sounds like a tinny Casio organ on its factory setting, and suggests John Shuttleworth covering Hurts.
On this evidence, Metronomy are happy to remain a clever-clever, snickering in-joke for hipsters. They have every chance of realising their wish.