Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
It should serve as a sort of precursory endorsement that two of Metric’s four members are part of Canada’s extended musical family, Broken Social Scene. In BSS, singer/keyboardist Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw exist as garnish to the core members’ eclectic songwriting. Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? allows the duo to really stretch their muscles. In doing so, they turn in quite possibly the best electro-pop/new wave hybrid album ever.
The band’s strength comes from their refusal to write a traditional genre song. Take “Wet Blanket,” which rides rapid fire Elastica riffs for the first two minutes before a slowly blossoming chorus of Beach Boys’ harmonies takes the song to a false ending, where an angular keyboard melody finally ushers the sounds out. It’s hardly standard clockwork synth-punk fare. Likewise, “Hustle Rose” begins with texturally dueling electronics that dissolve at their confluence and make room for guitar/drum driven dark-wave illuminated by synth riffs like exploding neon lights. As a longtime Friend of Moog, Haines’ solid pop sensibilities are a godsend after too many years of the instrument hung limply as an emo window dressing.
Haines delivers on the lyric end too. In a genre predominantly known for its fashion sense and scene stereotype perpetuation, she tosses out lines like the socially conscious and ominous, “Every ten year old enemy soldier thinks falling bombs are shooting stars sometimes” (“IOU”) and “All we do is talk, static, split screens, as the homeland plants enemies” (“Succexy”), with the same cool detachment most singers use when relating fleeting scenester hook-ups.
Like their contemporaries in The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Metric’s music is a revolution to which you can dance. Unlike T(I)NC, though, Metric is deeply rooted in old world sounds, all across the board, but they are cognizant of the present and the future, and are considerably more than the sum of their parts.