I’m clearly not going to get through this review without mentioning Komputer or Kraftwerk, so let’s get that over with now. You see, the nice thing about Metroland is that you know exactly what you’re going to get. If there was ever a better example of a band that does what it says on the tin, then I can’t think of it.
Perhaps the more interesting question is exactly why anyone would record an album inspired primarily by Komputer‘s 1998 masterpiece The World of Tomorrow. I might have to leave it up to you to work out the answer to that one.
But that’s pretty much what this is, and it is absolutely glorious for all of that.
Mind the Gap opens with the rippling synths that after a minute or so become Enjoying the View, which is a nice insight into what a public transport-inspired Kraftwerk track might sound like in the 21st century. Somehow both contemporary and retro, it kicks the album off in fine form.
The title track is less exciting, although as it draws to a close you realise that the drums have been steadily throbbing for some time. As with a few tracks on the album, this maybe would have been better as a mini filler track somewhere towards the end (at the very least, the “mind the gap” joke would have worked better!)
Inner City Transport, um, transports you back to the kind of thing you want to hear on the album, and somehow creates a sound which is actually less directly dependent on its influences. Bonus points for use of a Speak and Spell on M-E-T-R-O.
After a bit of a lull, things return to form again with Harry Beck, which of course channels Komputer‘s Bill Gates. Did I say channels? Of course I meant “rips off”. Harry Beck, of course, is the man who came up with the London Underground map, and pretty much invented the art of schematic network mapping for the whole world. He also inspired the artwork for the Mind the Gap sleeve, which shows a simple five-line transport network and should be familiar to anybody who has ever lived in or visited a city, anywhere.
With similar simplicity, Travelling is largely just a list of points of the compass (since there are only four of these, it doesn’t take too long) from the Kraftwerk school of lyric writing. Moscow Train (or Moscow Main, as it seems to be called elsewhere) is a particular highlight.
Later tracks are strong, although generally less exciting. The cover of The Passenger is worthwhile and fun, and It’s More Fun to Commute is a solid pun which closes with echoes of Radio-Aktivität. All told, as with the whole album, there’s nothing particularly new here, but if you approach it with that in mind, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and the in-jokes come thick and fast at times.
You then have the choice of just getting the album or adding a largely uninspiring remix album. If you do, you get a remix of Enjoying the View by Komputer, some good alternative versions of M-E-T-R-O (I think it’s fair to say that the remix is better than the original in that one case actually), Travelling, Inner City Transport and Moscow Main, as well as a typically dull set of mixes. I’m afraid my usual remix album advice applies – unless you’re a completist or a sadist, you might do best to skip these.
Your best bet is probably just to go for the download, available through iTunes here.