Did New Wave ever really die? Or does it walk the earth forevermore as a ghost named Metric?
The Canadian rock band, fronted in all her synth-cloaked glory by Emily Haines, has done well since the early 2000s at occupying the throne of their musical niche. No one does vaguely gothic power rock quite like Metric, after all. It’s a pleasant surprise that the band has had what success they’ve had; hits like “Gimme Sympathy” and “Gold Guns Girls” are not even close to obscure for a band that, for the most part, is playing in its own deadly little sandbox. Synthetica, their latest album, is tightly built and engineered to maximum fan-pleasing potential.
Leading the spooky synths and the muscular guitar riffs at the forefront of every song is the somehow powerful coo of Haines, half-femme-fatale-half-fembot. Like a cyborg siren, she makes cold and emotionless seem perfect and alluring at every turn. Take opening track “Artificial Nocturne”: Haines’ song stylings contrast perfectly against the song’s slasher flick chords, evoking the darker songs from Death Cab for Cutie’s catalogue. As she insists “I can’t fake the daytime,” Haines plants Synthetica’s rock firmly in the shadows.
Lead single “Youth Without Youth” has savage drums, a heavy artillery synth beat and a growling guitar rhythm. Metric does not deal in delicacy, but goes for the jugular almost every time. It’s the perfect soundtrack to juvenile delinquency. Another standout, “Breathing Underwater,” evokes their own “Help I’m Alive” off of Fantasies, with lyrics that beg for a backstory: “They were right when they said you should never meet your heroes.”
The title track, an ode to a drug-free self, is the perfect example of a Metric track, a powerful and hooky piece of alt-rock tackling a sticky subject. Haines’ rallying cry, “I’ve got something no pill could ever kill,” would make Nancy Reagan proud. It’s my personal favorite D.A.R.E. anthem, just barely unseating The Cranberries’ “Salvation.” (Aside: Never watch the video for “Salvation.” Or do. I’m not your mom.)
Synthetica is a consistent album with few stylistic variations, though “Lost Kitten” (equal parts cyanide and schoolgirl) is a great piece of tongue-in-cheekery. At no point does the album let up for rest; look elsewhere for ballads. Metric means business. Don’t be fooled by the title — this one is the real deal.
(1) “Artificial Nocturne”
(2) “Youth Without Youth”
(4) “Breathing Underwater”