Metronomy + White Williams | Union Hall | 8.01.2008
Metronomy are better live than you think they're going to be. It probably has something to do with the stick-it-and-clickit lights they had affixed to their chests. Aware that they are three dudes playing keyboards and guitars and bass (and occasionally saxaphone and melodica) with no drummer and a fair amount of pre-programmed music, they know you have to give the audience something more if you want them to actually pay attention to you. Slapping their chests in between strums (plus LEDs on their wrists and instruments), Metronomy made their own low-rent light show which fits well with their DIY dance sound. They also dabbled in choreographed stage moves, all with a knowing sense of humor that was also apparent in Mount's between-song banter.
Devo is obviously an influence, and not just in the stage presentation. At first listen you might think they're just another UK band mining typical post-punk signposts, but instead of looking to Gang of Four, America seems to be the main influence. The jerky rhythms, skwonky keyboards and warbly sounds (everything seems to be run through chorus effects) are very Devo, and some of it also reminds me of Wall of Voodoo. But Mount has crafted a distinct sound over the last three years that is easily identified — both on Metronomy records but also the killer remixes he does for other artists.
Metronomy' are currently on a creative high. Their (his) forthcoming second album, Nights Out, has probably six songs that could be singles — a lot of them already have been, actually, as Mount's been trickling out releases over the last year. But with them all in one place, and still managing to sound like an album, not to mention some very high profile I think they're going to have a very good 2008.
Opening this late-starting and somewhat sparsely-attended show was
unannounced special guest White Williams, who I hope stuck around to
watch Metronomy because he could sure learn a thing or two about how to
perform in front of an audience. Sterogum, Pitchfork, and others have
heaped praise on his debut album, Smoke,
which I have tried repeatedly to like but find kind of structureless apart from a couple good tracks. I'd seen White Williams perform twice before
and found him to be a snooze both times — but had heard he now had a drummer and a
bunch of new songs and was ready to give him another shot.
percussion helped but White Williams still doesn't do much to connect
with the audience. He spent most of his time facing the side stage
wall, fiddling with his laptop and mixer. The sound was muddled, which
didn't help things, but I think the real problem is the songs just sort
of meander. His strength, at this point, are the interesting
arrangements and production flourishes which are actually really interesting. White Williams has great sounds,
he just needs to write some songs. (In the meantime, I'd love to hear him give remixing a try.) But he's young and hopefully this
will come. (It is also my personal tastes: Grizzly Bear and Animal
Collective are only just now becoming interesting to me.) Some of the
new material he tried out showed promise that might have been fulfilled
under better sonic circumstances. But he really, really needs to up his
game in the live arena if he's going to get anyone to care.
Also there: The Music Slut, who liked WW more than I did.