For years I’ve carried with me an unfounded disdain for Metric. I think it all started when I was in a conversation about Canadian bands when someone made the claim that Metric is the greatest Canadian band of all-time. There is no word in the English language to describe the loud guffaw that purged from my mouth. I mean, there’s a pretty long list of great Canadian bands, and Metric ain’t at the top. Ever since then I’ve been anti-Metric, even though I’m really just anti-that idiot’s declaration.
So when I heard that Metric was coming out with a new album, I decided this would be my chance to turn it all around. Honestly, I never thought their music was bad, I could just never take it for what it is because my judgement was clouded. When you look at the players in the band and what they do outside of their main group, I love them. They’re out there working with Broken Social Scene, Stars, Jason Collett, all bands and people for whom I have a great admiration. Hell, Haines and Shaw used to share an apartment with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs-how could I not like them?!?
Synthetica, the bands fifth full-length, hit me like a splash of water on the face waking me up to the great sounds Metric is laying down. After a couple songs I felt like I was listening to a brand new bands first album. Everything was fresh and there’s a sense of urgency to the record without it being too aggressive. It reminds me of something a friend said about Beach House’s “Teen Dream,” “It’s a great record for walking around the city after midnight.”
It is a fairly introspective record that deals with existing on your own terms and being able to feel comfortable in your own skin. The first song does a great job of laying out this theme right at the opening verse:
I’m just as fucked up as they say
I can’t fake the daytime
I found an entrance to escape into the dark
Got false lights for the sun
It’s an artificial nocturne
It’s an outsider’s escape for a broken heart
I think what the song is trying to say is that you can either believe what others say about you and live the way they want or you can follow the path that you believe is right. Or maybe I’m completely off base.
But in the title track, the theme pops up again on the albums title track. This time it’s in a song that is more guitar and hook driven than the more ambient lead. Haines sings on this one “We’re all the time confined to fit the mold,
but I won’t ever let them make a loser of my soul.” In their case they could be talking about record labels trying to sign them or what not, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s true everywhere you look. Whether it’s the constant barrage of advertisements trying to lure you into using a new deodorant or a fashion magazine trying to show girls what they’re supposed to look like, there are entities constantly trying to force us to sell out. I think Metric had the right idea when they decided early on to put out their music independently.
I know a lot of this review may sound rambling, but I’m still a bit shocked by how much I’ve been enjoying it. Carrying around these false pre-conceptions of what all their albums sound like (having actually heard only a limited amount from the band) has caused my brain to go into a HTTP 500 Internal Server Error. On the one hand I still can’t believe someone would make the claim that Metric is the greatest Canadian band, and on the other I can totally see an argument for maybe the best Canadian band of the past ten years.
My favorite song on the record is one of the more pop radio-type tunes (think Coldplay). “Breathing Underwater” features a great vocal performance from Haines, and also contains some screaming licks from guitarist James Shaw. This song shows the bands desire to make good music, regardless of genre. They play rock, new wave, and pop equally well because they approach it all the same, more concerned with whether a song is good as opposed to if it will get airplay or not.
Word on the street is that the band finished recording this album a year ago, and then went back and reworked some of it so that it better represented their vision. I’d be interested to hear how the original album would have sounded, because I can’t imagine these songs any other way. Whatever they changed, they made the right choice. As it stands now, I can honestly say that it is a very strong album. Even though it spends some time dealing with deep ideas, it could still be described as a fun record. And really, as the summer begins, that’s all we really want.
Synthetica is out today, so you can find it on iTunes. The band is finishing up a few shows in the states before heading to Europe and Australia. The next leg of the US tour kicks off August 3rd at Lollapalooza with a small hiatus before hitting the road for real Septmeber 6th in Rochester, NY (a fine place to play Disc Golf).