Having been an avid follower of the indie synth-pop group Metronomy for many years now, it has always struck me as nothing short of remarkable just how this band has managed to keep their sumptuous sonic inflections at such relatively low levels of super-stardom. While being hugely successful, it would be safe to say that they are hardly household names, and even the relatively small scale set-up of their concert starting off Somerset House’s Summer Series of cultural events highlighted this. It baffles me. Yet having finally seen them live, I realised that their determination to stay away from the often uncomfortable spotlight of contemporary music is an entirely deliberate one: low-key publicity, high-key raw sonic talent. The story of Metronomy’s rise from small garage band in Devon to achieving top ten albums in the UK chart has been nothing short of remarkable, and little describes their positively taciturn rise up the echelons of musical appreciation than this most recent live performance.
While it may be true that their success has grown enormously after many years of capturing the hearts and minds of synth-pop audiences, I wanted to see what it was about their live shows that really kept drawing people back to their wonderfully quirky sound. After seeing them in concert, it became completely clear.
What Metronomy bring that is seldom found elsewhere is nostalgia. Their music is an oozing aura of memories played out to a theme tune funky synth-soul and poppy electronica. Their latest album titled Summer ’08 is the musical embodiment of that particular time, with their sound emulating a more innocent, carefree period of the band’s life. Fun pink and blue lights and a smoky stage set-up felt mimetic of what we as music listeners reminisce as a happier, less responsible time. Their discernable 80’s sound, while still entirely sophisticated and contemporary musical compositions, resonate this feeling of a carefree past that went to the tune of steamy keyboard shuffles and poppy synth beats.
It’s not as simple however to say that their music is all a happy singalong. Many of their songs pick up on personal experiences of betrayal, breakups and emotional struggle, with the singers even admitting themselves being in the wrong at times. But what this has in common with the theme is that Metronomy are reminiscing back to times of joy and struggle, not in a way that is bitter or sad, but rather looking back in celebration of the moments in their life that made them. This is an inherently positive message and one that is reflected in their music.
So why stay away from the limelight? Simply the nostalgia of their music is inherently personal. Their ethos has nothing to do with the glamour and fame of being successful musicians, but rather an exploration into their own past, a past that everyone who listens can relate to so personally. Music is innately intimate, and Metronomy take that intimacy to the next level, especially most recently with this concert. This is why their music is loved. So to be able to do that and still get everyone dancing, well that’s something I definitely rate.
Their unique sound and their ability to take such a relatively intimate space to enhance their performance, while still able to get everyone bopping was skilfully done. A huge thanks must also be given to Somerset House who made this entire experience possible. Very reasonably priced tickets and drinks as well as a set up worthy of the talent they had secured made for a concert that I’ll certainly remember for years to come.