14 April 2009

Metric: "Fantasies"

There is a difference between wearing your influences on your sleeves than outright imitation. In recent years, every genre of music has a hype-machine parade of rehashed sounds, that’s a shameful display of the hope of riding the coattails of past musicians for new hits. It is not imitation or stealing a great idea (as T.S. Eliot says mature poets do), I can play older songs that newer ones are based on and the similarities are uncanny! That said, there is nothing wrong with being influenced by the past, we all are. It is an inescapable reality. Metric knows all about this; they wear their influences on their sleeves, but you will be pressed to point a definitive band or song they are rehashing. Instead, they have taken all of the energy, the joie de vivre, of new wave, mixed it up with slick indie rock sound, and have created something new, something fresh, something that is definitively theirs. Their fourth album out, “Fantasies,” they flawlessly deliver again.

Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, Metric has become sort of cosmopolitan; based out of New York, with an international fan base, “Fantasies” (14 April 2009) was recorded outside of Seattle. A four-year wait since their last album, the music contained here will make up for the wait. With a straightforward approach to composition and production, the album is not going to weigh you down with production gimmicks or cliché tricks to get an audience to listen. Instead, with the exception of one song, you will get an upbeat album, celebrating life, and rocking beyond what their new wave influences would have done themselves.

Opening with “Help, I’m Alive,” this is a song that will be a new mantra for many: “If you’re still alive my regrets are few. If my life is mine, what shouldn’t I do? I get wherever I’m going, I get whatever I need, while my blood’s still flowing and my heart still beating like a hammer…” This album is a world of possibilities, not a world stagnated by the stress and struggles of a crazy world of milk and honey; fantasies are the ultimate possibility. Just as the music avoids the clichés of new wave, so do the lyrics; the second track: “Watch out Cupid, stuck me with a sickness; pull your little arrows out and let me live my life” ("Sick Muse"). Love is a sickness? That is thinking outside of the box! Both opening tracks are more reminiscent of the rock-pop of post-punk veterans than new wave hipsters. Shifting to a different sonic texture in the third track, “I’m not suicidal, I just can’t get out of bed … I can feel you most when I’m alone” (“Satellite Mind”). The sonic textures of the song shift with the lyrics, when sending “vibration” from a “satellite mind” the music radically shifts. It may be a simple arrangement, but it’s pure genius.

“Twilight Galaxy” is the one song that maintains a slow-paced tempo. Lyrically (notice how I keep coming back to the amazing lyrics), Metric hits a universal chord that we can all sing along with: “I’m higher than high, lower than deep, I’m doing it wrong and singing along.” The slower tempo belies the song, a musical irony of sorts, because even in doing things wrong, they are going to keep singing, keep living. And this is when it really hits you that this album is about celebrating life and the endless possibilities that exist outside of how we normally see the world. Exploding thereafter into the guitar-oriented “Gold Guns Girl” and the popish “Gimme Sympathy,” Metric demonstrate the qualities of such greats as Blondie: the ability to shift tone lyrically and texture sonically, but still maintain the same singular vision for an album – in this case, celebrating life.

“Collect Call” (a title that may be lost on younger listeners) is a song that points to the irony that many of us have deluded ourselves to believe. Perhaps the most traditionally new wave song on the album, with a beat trying to escape into a disco dance floor torch song, the lyrics haunt you: “I know it’s a lie I want to be true, the rest of the ride is riding on you, over goodbyes we’ll buy some place.” It is the only song that they lose agency, autonomy (“… when you move I move with you.”) But the song is still about that desire for living life, but the reality that we all delude ourselves into the wrong kind of fantasy, one that will never come true. Then the album spirals towards the end of the fantasies with the rocking “Front Row” and “Blindness,” which starts on an ambient note but mixes in the rock beats later as the song builds up, is an appropriate way to lead up to the closing track: “Stadium Love.” Stadium love? What else is the ultimate fantasy for a musician? To be adored by a crowd of 50,000 plus in a stadium – isn’t that the ultimate joie de vivre of a rock star? Well, other than headlining Reading, Rock AM, or Coachella?

I rarely go through song-by-song on an album, and usually do not read reviews that do – so why do it? Because I was so impressed by this album, addicted to its infectiousness, that I had to share it all with you. I recommend this album hands down, and I definitely see myself considering it one of the best albums of the year. June 17th in New York City? I picture myself fighting the crowd to get to the front and check out this band live. Till then, I think you should log onto iTunes, or do the archaic and run and buy the actual hardcopy CD, and listen to this album.

Track Listing:
1. Help, I'm Alive
2. Sick Muse
3. Satellite Mind
4. Twilight Galaxy
5. Gold Guns Girls
6. Gimme Sympathy
7. Collect Call
8. Front Row
9. Blindness
10. Stadium Love

A bit late with some of the dates, here is the current tour schedule for Metric. If they are by you, definitely go out and see them:

Wednesday, April 1: Ottawa, Canada
Thursday, April 9: Toronto, Canada
Sunday, April 12: Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, April 14: Toronto, Canada
Thursday, April 16: Montreal, Canada
Friday, April 24: Whistler, Canada – Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival
Monday, May 4: Paris, France
Tuesday, May 5: Cologne, Germany
Wednesday, May 6: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Friday, May 8: Brussels, Belgium
Saturday, May 9: Berlin, Germany
Monday, May 11: Manchester, UK
Tuesday, May 12: Glasgow, Scotland
Wednesday, May 13: Coventry, UK
Friday, May 15: Brighton, UK
Saturday, May 16: Bristol, UK
Sunday, May 17: Oxford, UK
Tuesday, May 19: London, UK
Thursday, June 4: Seattle, USA
Friday, June 5: Portland, USA
Saturday, June 6: San Francisco, USA
Sunday, June 7: San Diego, USA
Monday, June 8: Los Angeles, USA
Thursday, June 11: Denver, USA
Friday, June 12: Lawrence, USA
Saturday, June 13: Minneapolis, USA
Sunday, June 14: Chicago, USA
Monday, June 15: Detroit, USA
Wednesday, June 17: New York, USA
Thursday, June 18: Washington DC, USA
Friday, June 19, Philadelphia, USA
Saturday, June 20: Toronto, Canada – Edge Fest

Keep up with the band on the homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube Channel: MetricMusic.

Here is their video for “Gimme Sympathy.” (Directed by Frank Borin.)