Saturday, 2 July 2016

More of that homework no-one wants to read ... album of the year

The beginning of July finds me in a self-indulgent mood.  We have completed reports, we have 75% of a School Improvement Plan, and we are well on the way to looking something close to prepared for next year, whilst hopefully finishing this one off in some style.

The first of our results are beginning to hit the deck and I am pleased.  Still the big one to go on Tuesday, and I'm still, how does one put this politely, bricking it, but am more than ready for what comes along.  However, having blogged at exactly this point over for the last two year's bemoaning all of my woes, I am determined not to be that guy this time around.  To put it more simply, fir the first time in many years, I feel content, as opposed to let down.

So what's the topic this time?  How will I avoid the whole "Is it the world's biggest, or is it just standing on a box?" debacle?  Well, the blog I really want to write contains that many expletives and asterisks that my (rubber-band-and-a-calculator) laptop won't handle it without crashing at least twice.  What I'd really like to talk about is the utter futility, crass arrogance and selfish sadness of the actions of a certain teaching union this week, who still appear to think that 19th century industrial actions are effective in the 21st century.  However, for all my faults, I surround my self with people whose counsel I trust wholeheartedly, and one of them told me yesterday to "Man up".  She followed this with a "Suck it up Princess," and so, firmly back in my box, I will instead write about something far more ... pleasant.

A few months ago my late night twitter meanderings alerted me to some very exciting news.  A new Metronomy album was on its way - hurrah!  No, I know I am the last person in the world to say hurrah, but it seemed apposite at that moment.  Okay, I'll delete it.  It appeared that this new offering, Summer 08, would drop on 1st July.

If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer some of my indulgent mumblings before, you will know how much I love my electronica, and, in that field, how highly I esteem the work of Metronomy.  So, I did the only thing a true man would do: pre-ordered it on vinyl for myself, telling my wife it was a "Well done on SATs" present for our son.

It is awesome.  That's my three word review, and I mean every word of it.  What a joy.  Another three worder.  If I'm being honest, it was with a sense of relief that a little dram helped me enjoy the album at first listen last night much, much more than I was expecting to.

The critics have been saying it hails a return to the famous English Riviera Album.  I would agree, but it has huge dollops of Nights Out on there as well.  All in all, I think that it is a joy that someone from the southwest is unashamedly trying to bring disco back out of its faux-velvet lined box of shame in the corner, with several side helpings of it's okay to be a grown up and like this stuff.  And my 11 year old hair bear loves it too, in a very different way to me, which makes it even more special. (BTW, and this is one of many points of reference i this blog for a target audience, it is a joy to introduce the younger generation to vinyl - my son thinks it is, in his words, phat with a ph.)

I have not heard a band do so much so wisely with a bass since Queen, and let's all be honest, with Queen it was all about power struggle.  This is far more about melody, and about complimenting eternal samples that lead you up and up a spiral staircase leading to a loft full of all your greatest memories and darkest thoughts.

Several tracks on this album remind me of everything I love about electronica; a simple, almost hypnotic sample building and building until another synth, or a bass, or a haunting vocal comes in to point the songs direction.  Many of the songs point to disco; one or two of them flaunt it unembarrassingly.  Hovering over it all are a number of techs, spindals, samples and synth devices that would make technology students drool.

I know it's sycophantic (a Prefab Sprout lyric - never forget the sprouts, eh? Also close to a Pet Shop Boys lyric if I recall correctly...) but this really is the best and most complete album I have heard since Love Letters - the last Metronomy album.   It is a joy, from the melancholic lament of Love's Not an Obstacle to the beautifully aggressive Hang Me Out to Dry. I can honestly say, and this is going out to a target audience of blokes my age, but I have not been so mesmerized by side two of a piece of vinyl since I first heard the b side of Actually by the Pet Shop Boys on Christmas evening of 1988.

And no, I am not attempting to get a job as a music journalist.  Although, an occasional review might come in handy if Tuesday goes badly NOOO FATBOY, you promised to step back from that precipice.  And so I shall.  Suffice to say that, school is going well, the profession is once again about to spring a fissure on a tectonic scale, but music and our olive ribbons shall preserve us all.  And a certain album shall be playing on two laptops, two pieces of handheld and a record player for a long time to come.

From the self indulgent side of the keyboard, that is all.