Metric – Synthetica. Release date: June 12, 2012
Not looking to drift away far beyond the style and slick landscape that their last album Fantasies provided, Synthetica is the pinnacle that shows us Fantasies was no lucky punch.
You absorb their music, their classic style of build-up, their lyrics, Emily Haines’ vocal stylings and what you have is a blistering concoction of Coldplay, Katy Perry and Garbage all rolled into one – and really fucking great at it. Delivering hooks and melodies that launch at you from every corner of the room you feel bombarded by what might be the absolute industry standard right now for indie power pop. Clearly for a band that is emerging more into rock-fused pop glamour with every release it’s a great sigh of relief they are doing it so well. Oh, how we would hammer away at them if they dropped the ball on this. Sellouts we would cast them aside as. But that isn’t happening, and this album is the same forearm shiver that Fantasies took you by the throat with and held you up against the wall with in 2009. The brief alt-rock and post punk edgy flourishes of Synthetica are mere tasty appetizers to remind the listener that not all roots have been pulled out of the ground. But don’t be misled by those tinkerings with the past. This is a pop gem in the most beautiful way. If we were expecting, hoping or anticipating for some dramatic shift in the delivery or songwriting of Emily Haines it’s not happening here. Equally dangerous and sexy, her solo material provides that alter ego that Metric waxes over with brilliance and bright lights. Where Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton give her the soft open book of her inner struggles, it’s Metric where she shines them up. She fills them with layers, polishes them to a fine glow and looks you in the eye and makes you think “let’s see fucking Lady Gaga do this!”. It’s hard to not anticipate an inevitable, dramatic shift for Metric in a few years towards a style that breaks away strongly from Let it Out/Fanstasies/Synthetica. I don’t think they’ll carry this same inertia into another album such as this. That would make too much sense. Indie rock and alternative pop thrive best when things don’t always make much sense. Metric are smart enough to know when to take it to a mountainous peak with Synthetica yet they have the brilliance to probably know when to push down that turn signal and turn left. We’re betting on further brilliance.
Synthetica – Track by Track
“I’m just as fucked up as they say. I can’t fake the daytime. I found an entrance to escape into the dark.” A pulsating slow building alt-rocker that installs a vibe the album quickly follows. As Fantasies did with ‘Help I’m Alive’ Sythenticadrops us knee deep into the sonic pop onslaught with this echo chamber torture-love-device of an opener.
Youth Without Youth
Head-bobbing full jam rocker that lifts the tempo into another gear following the burning intro of ‘Artificial Nocturne’. Classic Metric sound and a tune that would slide perfectly onto Fantasies or Live it Out. Pounding drums with a little dancefloor and bodysurfing written all over it. Not in line with their best tracks by any remote stretch but they make Coldplay look like fucking Howard Jones here. And we like Coldplay (a little).
Speed The Collapse
Easing back into some trademark breathless vocals, “We built a mansion in a day, distant lightning thunder claps, we watched our neighbor’s house collapse – look the other way”, Ms. Haines by now secures her role on the album with ease. Midtempo thumper makes you envision the inevitable live setting with a crowd full of adoring girls closing their eyes with hair tossing side to side, not sure how to quite move but enjoying it nonetheless. More landscape buildup from Emily throughout the song which is the trait that permeates nearly all of recent Metric.
More alt-rock classic flourishes, stuttering guitars and yet another vintage style Metric track that builds up from the ashes and then back down again. Feeling like something more from Old Word Underground and clearly eluding the poplabel for yet another track with a homage towards their recent past. “Are you breathing underwater?…is this my life?”
Dreams So Real
“I shut up and carry on the scream becomes a yawn.” Multi-layered vocals with synths reverbing another fuzzy landscape of sound for the distant lead singer. It’s the ‘Twilight Galaxy’ of the collection clearly and it should be the opening song of the next live show – as ‘Twilight Galaxy’ was during much of the Fantasiestour.
“I was looking for a hooker when I found you. You’ve got my eyes, you’ll never be mine but you got my eyes”. Nearly every Metric song builds up to something else with some classic verse-bridge-chorus structures and in doing so they’ve now brought Beatle-like melodies into playful sing-a-longs such as this. Moving 180 degrees away from the breathless vocals up to this point, we picture Emily here in grade school pigtails singing on the playground. Well, minus that hooker stuff.
Moving from distant vocals of vintage Emily from earlier on the album, ‘The Void’ gets the album into full pop gear. More slow paced tantalizing verses with a punch you in the stomach catchy chorus that puts back on the dancefloor again. Why do I see about 7 remixes of this one in Metric’s future? And why do I think I’ll always prefer the original. At this point you already feel like tracks 1-5 were side one (vintage Metric), and 6-11 are side two (Metric lush pop).
“Hey,.. I’m not Syn-the-tica”. Best. F*cking. Song. On. The. Album. Three minutes and 54 seconds of how can I turn this up any louder. Pulsating rock groove and one of the sexiest songs that Emily Haines has ever sang since, well half of Fantasies.
After the orgasm that the title track creates ‘Clone’ gives us that much needed midtempo electronic break. By now the drums of the first few tracks have moved to the back and we’ve moved into the synthesizer-etica portion of the album. Beautifully structured power pop making me realize that Metric is the 2nd coming of classic Garbage.
Yes it has guest vocals from Lou Reed but it’s the musical low point on the album. The first feeling of filler I’ve gotten from what has been pop ecstasy to this point. I’m sure legions of fans will disagree – as is the case with any track-by-track review but this song is a B-side. A good B-side.
Nothing But Time
Piano intro behind an eerie landscape of cascading synths. Time to give us that glass of warm chocolate milk and call it a night. Emily, in her breathless best gives way to another slow Coldplay-style groove that grows into a hand-holding finality “I’ve got nothing but time so the future is mine” as the synths chime us into closure.