Metronomy + Oscar+Martin @ The Zoo, 04.01.2012

I came to Metronomy initially through reviews and interviews, rather than by actually hearing any of their songs. The point of interest was that the band’s main songwriter and singer, Joseph Mount, comes from Totnes, a small town just south of Dartmoor about 45 minutes drive away from where I come from. Devon is not exactly a hot bed of music and bands, and the county has few claims to much in the way of musical fame: Coldplay’s Chris Martin comes from about 10 miles outside of Exeter, as does Joss Stone, Muse come from Teignmouth, just down the coast from where I come from and Portishead’s singer Beth Gibbons originally comes from Exeter, but that’s about it.

What was even more interesting in Metronomy was that they called their most recent album The English Riviera, named after the area around Torbay/Torquay and from reading interviews with the band the inspiration was to write glamorous songs about the Devon coastline that were the English equivalent of 1970s songs inspired by living along the Californian coastline. Every review I’ve read of The English Riviera has name-checked Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Personally, other than being a typical Californian 1970s album (although using the Australian rules Fleetwood Mac should be defined as an English band given that they formed in the UK and the majority of the band has always been English), I don’t see much in the way of musical comparisons. That the album is referenced in every review makes me think that an early review mentioned it and all the later reviewers chose to include it in their reviews to make them seem more knowledgable: my bet is that the majority of those reviewers have never even heard Tusk. Although their might be 1970s Californian rock inspiration in the intent behind the songs, Metronomy’s sound is later; it’s a lot more early 1980s New Romantic, with earlier songs sounding more like late 1980s Rave music.

My new year resolution to not photograph bands who play in the dark, a hastily formed resolution based on seeing The Delta Riggs support the Jim Jones Revue manages to barely last 24 hours thanks to Metronomy, with each of the band having a small light fixed to their upper torso and which is remotely controlled. At times these four light form the only onstage light. A very packed Zoo, the lack of lighting, the difficulty in metering and not being able to preview any shots make it a frustrating shoot. Reviewing the photos later, the individually mounted lights have caused all manner of flare on the images, making the majority unusable. I enjoy the band though, just not the photographing bit.

Melbourne band Oscar+Martin are the support band and are the worst band I’ve seen in a long, long while. Even before we start, Oscar+Martin is terrible band name, especially when there’s a national hair loss prevention clinic who advertise heavily on TV called Ashley & Martin. Even before the band take to the stage, the instruments provide an insight in what to expect, with keyboards, laptops and two auxiliary toms; so you know there’s going to be a drumming jam at some point, probably at the end of the last song. The one surprise is that the band doesn’t finish their set bashing each of the drums they have, with them taking to their drum sticks as early as the second song. The second song also includes one of them doing an excruciatingly bad posh, white boy rap. It’s like all those New Jack Swing songs from the early nineties that were terrible even at the time. Another drumming jam happens in a later song, with the song lyrics that include “…don’t let your booty touch the ground”. It’s car crash music and the set reaches its nadir in the penultimate song when the posh white boy does another rap, this time with what sounds like a heavy Jamaican accent. It’s just jaw-dropping. If you played the song somewhere like London, I think you’d first be met with stunned silence, then you’d be laughed at, and then you’d probably be lynched. It’s a real surprise getting back home and doing some research on them to find that they’re much loved and their album has been highly praised, with some recently saying that it should have been in the short-list for this year’s Australian Music Prize . It’s baffling, they were just terrible, and so bad it was good in a perverse way.  They remind me of something but it’s not until the following morning that that I work out who; Flight Of The Conchords. The only difference is that one is a joke band played for laughs and the other, as far as I know, isn’t.

The second gig of the year, the second in two days and it’s been interesting to compare the two UK headling bands against the two supporting Melbourne bands (I’ll have to update my analysis of supporting bands at Brisbane gigs one of these days. Over both nights the international headliners have show themselves to be a massive cut above the two “local” bands; the gulf in class is immense, and I can’t blame being a massive fan of either Metronomy or Jim Jones Revue for a one-eyed and biased view. As with a lot of gigs I take it as it comes but always hope to see a really good local support, especially when they’re towards the start of their career and you can watch them progress over time. But neither Oscar+Martin or The Delta Riggs the previous night rise to the occasion and it makes you wonder why they couldn’t have found a couple of better support bands in Brisbane instead of flying some up from Melbourne.

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