Metric: Old World Underground...
Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
While enigmatic frontwoman Emily Haines insists she hates pop music, Metric is a great pop band. Blessed with catchy songwriting destined to get stuck in your head, the band's first full album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? is a good introduction to this lean, angular and hungry quartet.
There's definitely a brainy intelligent side to them, which probably is the group's achilles heel. There's a very clear feeling that Metric is too smart for TV and too slick for indie status, where they currently reside. They're not scared of big words, complex songwriting or speaking their mind. Graphically and sarcastically taking jabs at the military industrial complex in their songs and videos, one gets the sense that they're guaranteed to be passed over for mainstream media overexposure in the current environment of Ashcroftian and ClearChannelesqe McCarthyism in the U.S.A.
Two of the group's standout tracks on this collection- "Succexy" and "Combat Baby"- deftly combine deadly infectious hooks with witty anti-war pop songwriting. One can only a imagine a homesick, war-torn soldier sitting in some barracks in the Middle East downloading the "Combat Baby" video and sadly longing for home, watching Haines coo the refrain "bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye baby / combat baby come back" in her miniskirt against a faux infrared nightvision bombing scene. Who knows, maybe the band is making an astute gamble; if future history renders the current war as unfavorably as the Vietnam conflict, Metric could rise on the tides of popular opinion with their back catalog.
The most successful moment of the album is a minimal track "Calculation Theme," which follows the exuberant "Combat Baby." Stripped down to just Haines at the keyboard, she passively talks of a shared reclusive moment with a friend, before moving on to whimsical, dreamy descriptions of imaginary landscapes, and ending with the haunting lyric for a soulmate "Tonight your ghost will ask my ghost, Who put these bodies between us?" While Metric started off as an electronica duo, this comes off more as a post-modern fugue for monosynth than anything some raver kids would come up with on a shiny new Roland sequencer.
Like most pop/rock efforts, this collection stacks the good bits at the front and the lesser moments at the end. The band's instantly familiar sound has most people spurting out 'name that influence' and you'll hear stuff like Blondie, Garbage, The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega... anything with guitars and a girl singer in it really. The group's arrangements on this one skillfully incorporate ultra hip retro new wave 80s references, chirpy vocals, buzzsaw guitar, bits of electronica and solid power punk downstrokes. Definitely a studio project on a budget, this probably falls short of the intensity of their bouncy live shows, and this album will most likely pale in comparison to their next collection, as the band has just finished a year of solid touring behind this one and is planning a return to the studio. The fans are waiting.