Metric – Synthetica

So let’s pretend that you’re not that cool anymore. Yes, you, the one with the perfect hair that we hate and despair at and love. You’re our Leslie Feist, lead singer of Metric, for today. You used to be hip and underground and have a sweet apartment in Parkdale when Parkdale was seedy, but now you’re just somewhat successful and generally forgotten. What do you do? Do you:
a) Go back to your roots and reclaim your long-lost electro-rock sad sincerity,
b) Find a new sound, at the risk of alienating your fleeing fans,
c) Say “fuck it,” embrace the money, and write catchy songs for indie radio that you can sell to commercials, or
d) Pretend you’re still hip and cared by singing lines like “I’m as fucked up as they say,” and write songs that desperately want to be popularity while desperately sounding like you don’t care about popularity.

If you guessed d), then you may be Leslie Feist, lead singer of Metric! Every song on here tries to cling to hipness lost, but not by being original or clever, but detached and distant. And that doesn’t work with these fuzzy, mostly hookless, produced-as-fuck regular rock songs. Emily Haines still sounds like she’s too cool for you, but she also sounds like she could be the topic of a version of “Fuck Me Pumps” made for girls with half-shaved heads. And the band? They sound like as normal and safe a three-piece band as there’s ever been. They come up with a couple good grooves, but nothing exciting.
Once, Leslie and her Metrics were pretty exciting, but that was back when I was in high school. Now that fake girlish voice tic in “Lost Kitten” makes me want to retch. Having Lou Reed blandly intone one line over and over in “Wanderlust” doesn’t add anything. The extent that the title track and “Youth Without Youth” want to be big stadium rockers is actually a bit sad.
Sympathy is something I like feeling for Elliott Smith because he’s sad, not a singer like Leslie Feist because she wants to be ice queen of the hipsters but will (almost certainly) never escape being an answer to a Canadian Trivial Pursuit arts question. But so it is. You can’t sing “Nothing I’ve ever done right / Happens on the safe side” on one of the safest, “put me in your commercial!” albums I’ve heard in a long time, but that’s what’s here. Should kept the social scene together, amirite?

3 / 10

Advertisements

Metric – Fantasies

WOW this is a bad album. Oh god. This is awful. This is a shame; this is the degradation of everything we may have held dea

Let’s start with the first song, “Help, I’m Alive!” First of all, it’s called “Help, I’m Alive!”, so that’s stupid and whiny and ridiculous. And no, it’s not a Frank Zappa kind of thing. It’s a self-centered. bullshit, non-love song, like the rest of the album. It’s ultra-glossy, ultra-corporate “indie” rock, with all the nonsense such a self-centered endeavour entails. The lyrics are trite garbage, and the song itself…what the fuck, it just kind of lurches into the chorus four times, with no build-up whatsoever, or indication that the chorus is meant to start. And then it ends, with a similar trite anticlimax. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.

And that’s pretty much the theme of the album. Glossy pop-rock music that tries to be indie, with trite, boring lyrics and jarring, inexplicable changes in how the drums or guitar sound according to how their producer decided the songs should change sound. It’s not a band anymore, it’s the Metric Production Company, doing its bullshit thing.

I mean, I live with these roommates from Slovakia who came here for a better life. What would they think of these dumb, faux-clever lyrics? Oh, I know, they’d be insulted by the whininess of them all. For reference, the cleverest thing here is the line “who’d you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” That’s the CLEVEREST thing here, and it’s a dumb cliche. Elsewhere it’s all “burnout stars they shine so bright” bullshit around obvious chord changes. The worst is probably “Gold Guns Girls,” which paints a stupid picture of men and power with exactly one way-too-loud, stupid-ass riff that goes on incessantly. It’s just unnecessary. The quiet moments are nice, but every time there is one it’s drowned out by more big dumb loud guitars and too loud drums that try to make their lazy choruses more dramatic. Yuck.

Lastly, “Gimme Sympathy” is really catchy, and “Twilight Galaxy” is actually pretty nice, and “Stadium Rock” isn’t bad at all. Where’d they come from? I dunno, but I’d guess it’s from Feist’s last gasp of creativity. Whee.

3/10

Metric – Live It Out

As my (soon to be ex-) roommate Kristen said last night: “When I was 21. It was a pretty good year. I listened to some hipster music. It was vaguely anticapitalist. But not so much that they were actually taking a stand. There were a lot of slogans. When I was 21.”

More importantly, these songs don’t really go anywhere. They’re just a bunch of big, dumb riffs, with Leslie trying to make something of non-existant melodies. And lyrically they’re really reaching – “Poster of a Girl” really wants to represent for college chicks everywhere (being all promiscuous and empty…what an original portrayal), “Handshakes” really wants to be saying something about corporations, “Monster Hospital” really wants to be a stern anti-war song, and “The Police and The Private” really wants to be “Calculation Theme.” But they don’t have the guts (or songs) to really go through with any of it. And really, there’s not much to someone yelling “Buy this car to drive to work! Drive to work to pay for this car!” in an off-key manner meant to sound rough and biting. Just silly, kiddos!

My primary memory of this album is sitting in my friend Alex Easler’s car, driving from his Leaside home back to Guelph along with his girlfriend Alyson, listening to her CD of the new Metric album, and just being bored (except for the catchy “Monster Hospital” and spacey, sad “Ending Start”). It’s just mediocre indie-rock with extremely clean production and glossy synths.

4/10

Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

I want to rant about the dishonest American media’s portrayal of Canadian health care here – it’s amazing watching a fraud being perpetuated, spitting in the face of the truth, essentially along partisan lines. Any Canadian, Brit, or funny, beret-wearing French chef knows that their health care system is not awful, not murderous, and saves the lives of far more people than the American “all-out-capitalism” approach. Does our system let down the occasional person? Absolutely. But not nearly as many as the American system, and not entirely along economic lines. It’s downright olde English what’s going on down there, and yet…

But instead I’d rather complain about how I have nowhere to move to in a week, and no job for when I get back from this trip, but I’m too tired, and insecure about my fat content and flailing personality in the face of responsibility, but I think I’m too tired even for that. You see, my imaginary and fantastical audience, I can’t sleep when I’m with a girl maybe half the time. This is not specific to my current relationship – it’s been happening since I started being in them, and this is on top of my existing sleeping problems that have troubled me since I was a little kid.

Oh, times were simpler when it was 2001 and new “hep cats” were “rockin’ around the clock” to the tune of tunes like this album’s, a lovable harbinger of young folks to come. By this time Feist and the Metrics had realized that they were actually a normal-ish four-piece rock band, eschewing the Stars-ness of their previous album in favour of pop-rock songs. This isn’t too much of a departure, as the (invalid) rhythm dept. doesn’t do too much and they already wrote verse-chorus pop songs (not counting that Mainstream EP). I sure do likes the the sound of real drums a lot more though, and the previous gloss-synths have been replaced with a sly, slithering synth that borders on sarcastic all album long.

So the songs! What about the fucking songs, Myles Warren Stocker? I’ll tell you, MetricReview Textedit. They’re pretty good!

End of review.

Credits roll.

Wacky post-review “bonus material” starts after the credits as follows:

They’re about venerable hipster topics like the title of the gosh darn album, the joys of arguing with a lover, what to wear, alienation with modern life love and music, and hint at a deep romanticism while throwing out catchphrases that nail it on the romance front but are painful on the political front. “Every ten year old enemy soldier thinks falling bombs are shooting stars / But she doesn’t make wishes on them” – What does that even mean? And what soldiers would those be? Unless she’s talking about Joseph Kony…Nothing is discordant and not a note is extra, but some songs do it for me way more than others. Namely, “Combat Baby” is tedious and barely mediocre (and lose the drum machine, fatty), while a few on the second half aren’t too memorable. On the winning front, the two slow, sad songs, “Calculation Theme” and “Love is a Place” are the two best things here – genuinely moving and original, while “Dead Disco,” the most straight forward-ly poppy song here, really pulls off its frustration and annoyance at the doneism of what’s out there and what’s to create.

It’s a little too exact and euphonic at times, but it sounds good all the way through, and if the glossiness annoys you then don’t listen to it seven times in one day for the sake of review. Listen to some Jandek, or something.

8/10

Metric – Grow Up and Blow Away

I’m pretty tired, so excuse me if this isn’t up to the usual low standards of my subpar reviewing. I’m tired because I’m having difficulty sleeping in a bed with another human being, which might be a problem on our upcoming European month-long trip. Actually, it’s more of a month-long trip to Europe, but what do I know? You know how Sylvia Plath killed herself by sticking her head in an oven, right? I wonder if her face melted. I bet that would really ruin an open-casket funeral. It would have been funny if it did, and it did, but they did it anyway. It would have been the best televised funeral since Benicio Del Toro’s heterosexuality. Zing!

Just kidding, I don’t have any reason to think Ben Del T’s gay.  Why did I make that joke? Still an electro pop-rock duo that sound basically like Stars on downers instead of relationships, Feist and guitarist guy recorded this in 2001 or something, but it was never released because of that year’s spider outbreak. Which is a shame, because it’s pretty good! A bunch of synth-heavy shiny pop songs by a coupla kooks, livin’ in Toronto or New York, being kinda sad. It’s about as consistent as a band working in this terrible genre can get! Which is to say it could really use some cleaned up production and real drums. It’s a good time for all, especially the still-solid title track. wavering “Parkdale,” FInal Fantasy victory music instrumental “Fanfare,” and hook-laden “Torture Me.” Sure the good songs are front-loaded, and it gets a bit repetitive with all the mid-tempo pop songs (sometimes half the album feels like poor man’s “Torture Me”‘s), but the kids really know their way around a good synth tone and/or quirky vocal line. Plus, Feist’s voice remains one of the most enjoyable in modern music, so how can you go wrong?

Oh wait, I know! Because you can’t buy it? Because they’d only release it years later without three of its best songs? Grow Up and say ‘oy vey!’ Right, Jews? I think so! But more on that later!

Also, “Rock Me Now” is terrible Martini-bar-background-music garbage.

7/10

Metric – Static Anonymity EP

Sneaky Dee! They’ve changed, Jackson Lee. All of a sudden they’ve started a real band, and write actual songs that do more than occupy a background. Django Reinhardt, it’s a great improvement! Chive Alive and Jai Alai and a Toronto Blue Jay to you all.

But first, the music: unlike the last EP, which I didn’t actually describe, this is five fairly normal songs, in that they have guitars, basslines, choruses, normal melodies, (poorly synthesized) drums, and all that. They’re catchy and Feist has one of the nicest voices in popular music – on-key, assertive yet soothing, and the themes are nothing undeserving – jes’ look at the titles – “Grow Up and Blow Away,” “Siamese Cities,” “London Halflife,” but the whole thing veers a little close to elevator music when it misses. It’s very pop, and the synth drums make things sound a little MuchMoreMusic MuchMoreOften than necessary.

But it hits pretty often! Lead track “Grow Up and Blow Away” is a shoulda-hit late-90s-feeling pop song with a memorable chorus that goes  “if this is the life / why does it feel so good to die today / blue to grey / grow up and blow away” (hee, it’s dark!), while “Siamese Cities” is a “cities and relationships” number with an early line about Little Italy that’ll make me nostalgic forever once i move in two weeks. Plus, “London Halflife” is a great departure; it’s a quick piano-led downtempo note to leave a sad taste in your mouth about, you guessed it, getting older.  The other two songs are a little worse – “Down” is just bad with its annoying horn trills, and the remix of “Soft Rock Star” isn’t nearly as anthemic as it would like to be – but it has its anthemic qualities down, it just needs to be, you know, a better song.

This EP is very early-20s, a ways past stealing Dad’s liquor and going for a drive, but still in the midst of interpreting one’s first few existential crises. Getting older is still a shock, living on one’s own and realizing what one’s in for is still a surprise, and all the shops and tenements are inspirational and awful instead of quotidian and sad. I think listening to this when I’m 30 will make me very sad about more than the songs themselves.

7/10

Metric – Mainstream EP

Metric may be an annoyingly mediocre indie-rock group now, but back in the day, still fronted by lead singer Leslie Feist, they were called “Mainstream,” and put out one five-song EP of downerish, electronic pop music.  Spiritually they’re long gone now, but back then they sounded like a bunch of pretentious but likable Gladstone Hotel musically inclined hipsters – but old ones, with tie belts and blazers worn with jeans. It was winter then, I think all the time. The Queen streetcar comes so rarely, sometimes you’re better off walking ten minutes here or there, especially in winter. The slower you move, the slower the streetcar moves too. Better yet, sleep over. Not in a sexual way – it’s just winter, and it’s cold outside. Borrow a jacket to wear over your blazer. Have some electronic music for your walk. This is electronic music for your walk through the long-gone hipster paradise of Toronto, a walk taken because the streetcar takes too fucking long.

It’s nice, but it’s not all that interesting.

6/10