In the summer of 2008, Katy Perry had kissed a girl (and she liked it), Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris were beseeching people to Dance Wiv Me, and people were flocking to the cinema to watch Pierce Bronson murder various Abba classics in the film Mamma Mia. It was a strange kind of summer.
Meanwhile, somewhere in a studio on the south coast, Joe Mount was working on what would become the second Metronomy album, Nights Out. It was the point where Mount’s career would take off, leading to albums like the Mercury nominated The English Riviera and 2014’s enjoyable, if slightly unfocused, Love Letters.
It’s this pre-fame period that Summer 08 harks back to, with Mount working completely on his own for the first time since his debut, and revisiting many of the demos and rough tracks that formed the basis for Nights Out. You may expect it, therefore, to feel a bit rough and half-sketched – even a backward step – but Summer 08 is a warm, rich and often very funny album, albeit one inevitably closer to tone to Mount’s earlier work
It takes a few plays to work its magic, but once it does, the sinous funk takes hold. Opening track Back Together is an immediate highlight, all squelchy synths and jerky rhythms until it gloriously switches into a gloriously smooth disco anthem towards the end. Even better is Old School, full of cowbells, elastic basslines and Mount doing his best Prince impression while singing lines like “I love sex and I love dancing and reclining in your back seat”. If LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads were to record together, the results may sound something like this.
There’s a fair amount of arch humour on Summer 08, which some may find offputting – the aforementioned Old School is almost dripping with sarcasm as it casts its eye over scenester party culture, and 16 Beat is basically Mount’s ode to his favourite drum machine. It never becomes throwaway though – Scando pop queen Robyn turns up to contribute vocals to Hang Me Out To Dry and the contrast between her patented emotional style and Mount’s more deadpan downbeat voice is beautiful. The slinky funk of Night Owl (which, in keeping with the period detail, namechecks Lady Gaga‘s 2008 hit Paparazzi) also stands out among some of Metronomy’s best work, while Miami Logic sounds more like a refugee from the early/mid ’80s, never mind from eight years ago.
Inevitably, the pace does flag at times, and tracks like the overlong Mick Slow are rather too languid, and really seem to drag the album down a bit. The instrumental Summer Jam also seems a bit throwaway, and being the closing track also ensures that the album ends on a bit of a damp squib rather than a flourish. Overall though, there is more than enough on Summer 08 to reconfirm Metronomy’s position as one of this country’s wittiest, most original and purely enjoyable pop acts.