Friday 19 January 2018

Metric's new synth-based sound really measures up

John Meagher

John Meagher

metric

Synthetica

(Metric Music)

HHHHI

Although they may not have garnered the sort of hyperbolic praise heaped on Canadian compatriots Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Stars, Metric have been quietly building up a devoted fanbase below the radar.

Everything centres on vocalist and songwriter Emily Haines, whose ability to pen fabulously catchy, jangle-pop songs has been evident for more than a decade.

But praise must also go to James Shaw, who manages to crank out more killer riffs in the course of an album than most guitarists do in a lifetime.

His instrument is as pivotal as ever, but as hinted at in the title, the band embrace synths with more gusto than before.

The result is a batch of songs made in indie pop heaven -- lead single Youth Without Youth boasts all the vim and vigour of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, as Haines casts an affectionate if slightly jaundiced look back to the past -- while Dreams So Real is a carpe diem anthem, a chin-up-and-carry-on manifesto in the face of indifference.

Perhaps the latter song is a none-too-subtle dig at those who've embraced Canadian music but have been indifferent towards Metric to date.

Unlike so many contemporary albums, Synthetica doesn't outstay its welcome. Haines understands the power of the short, sharp pop song and the thrill of eradicating all extraneous fat. Those qualities are evident on the epic, soaring Breathing Underwater and the giddy, thrilling Nothing But Time.

The album's sole disappointment comes in the form of The Wanderlust, a collaboration with Velvet Underground legend and professional grump, Lou Reed, that no doubt sounded intriguing in the planning stages, but feels mismatched and flat in the studio.

KEY TRACK Without Youth; Dreams So Real

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