Metric is an odd case. A holdover from the halcyon days of early-2000s post-punk revival bands, these Canadians never quite fit that label, despite scooping up some of the same fans and touring with bands like Bloc Party. Metric was always strictly a synth-infused indie-pop band — with the emphasis squarely on “pop” — and while their initial release, 2003′s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now, went gold in their homeland and garnered them some critical praise over here, they never really went on to make much of an impact.
On Synthetica, what was once passable, catchy synthpop has devolved significantly, at times bordering on millennial Disney pop. It’s an uninspired medley of radio rock riffs with boring, repetitive vocals and hasty production.
It starts off pretty ugly. The second track, “Youth Without Youth,” is an incredibly uninspired song about a kid who grows up from playing games to becoming some sort of anti-authority teen throwing bricks through windows. “It’s seems to be oddly timely, with the general sense of malaise and discontent,” Haines says in a commentary of the song. That the occupy movement, or the arab spring, or the protests against Scott Walker, or any sort of anti-establishment sentiment could possibly be summed up by such a trite creation as this is borderline offensive and an affront to anything those things stand for.
The rest of this album’s faults are less philosophical and more technical. “Breathing Underwater” borrows the faux-emotional formula of the Killers’ “Mister Brightside,” except that it’s all build-up without the former song’s payoff. “Dreams So Real” is an even worse offender. There’s a point during the song where Haines sings, “I’ll shut up and carry on / the scream becomes a yawn.” The occasional Broken Social Scene contributor was never really known as a screamer, but the second part of that quote certainly rings true here: though they try hard on Synthetica to be a pure pop band, this song features one continuous beat, no hook and an ending that feels like they couldn’t think of where to go next.
The overall production is unimpressive. Tracks seem haphazardly thrown together, with no rhythm to the record at all. It’s generally just one jump cut to the next (hard to do with an album that sounds so generic!) Prime example: even with a fade in, the Old World Underground throwback “Synthetica” feels like a jarring change from the bubbly, irritating pop of “The Void.”
But by far the weakest parts of this album are the lyrics. Too simple to be considered deep, too vague to make any sense. It’s a bunch of generalities like “don’t say yes if you can’t say no” thrown about with seemingly no consideration outside of “do these words fit here/does this rhyme.” By the time the interesting Lou Reed (!!!) collaboration comes around at track 10, it’s too late for anyone to even care.
Mostly it just feels false and unemotional. It isn’t in any way moving or exciting, or even entertaining. There’s another lyric in the aforementioned “Dreams So Real” where Haines says, “Our parents’ daughters and sons / believed in the power of songs / what if those days are gone?” Without knowing (caring?) too much about what she’s talking about, I think it’s safe to say that if those days are gone, bands like Metric have ushered them out the door.
1.5 / 5 bars