The Proper Ornaments play an easy, jangly psychedelic rock which heralds back to The Byrds as well as referencing today’s modern, surfy equivalents: Real Estate, Yuck, Wild Nothing, DIIV, that kind of thing.
The set is breezy – perhaps too breezy for a Metronomy crowd – and is driven by the neatly balanced harmonies and big hair of frontmen Max Clapps and James Hoare. Their melodies are too delicately nuanced to be appreciated in such a large room, but I would definitely recommend listening to them on record.
Every so often a band like Metronomy spring up from British indie’s vast cultural landscape and take us all by surprise. They’re almost impossible to pin down and agonising to write about. They have four very different albums each echoing the developing tastes of the band’s creator, Joseph Mount, and range from oddball electro instrumentals to a truly brilliant pop album, The English Riviera, released in 2011 and nominated for a Mercury Prize. That album, and their new one, Love Letters, show Mount at the helm of a deeply idiosyncratic band.
The minimal beats and strange electronics from his earliest experiments are still mildly present, but now we have stronger hooks and choruses, and a collection of really great singles: The Bay, Radio Ladio, The Look, to name but a few from this evening’s set. Their more angular moments suggest Talking Heads, but that’s not quite an apt comparison. Hot Chip? Maybe, a little. Klaxons? Yes, but that’s still way off.
Their latest single Love Letters highlights another tangential reference; it’s a nostalgic 60s homage to the Motown era which appears to have influenced their wardrobe, with the band looking immaculate in matching red blazers and white pants. Even their stage show appears to be modeled on a TV set from The Ed Sullivan Show.
Their playlist, like their attire, is well-measured, trim and professional, driven by a faultless band which includes former Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior and bass extraordinaire Olugbenga Adelekhan. The two musicians in particular help to steer this latest live version of Metronomy away from the gimmicky geek-out of old and into a unique force of considerable merit, not to mention something far more akin to a much larger stage.
Gig date: March 18