“I’m just as fucked up as they say…”
Thus begins Synthetica, Metric’s much-hyped followup to their 2009 breakthrough album, Fantasies. This opening declaration ultimately sets a tone the album can only aspire to sustain for the duration. It’s edgy, sexy, and committed- but once the dust settles around the undeniable electricity of the opening three songs, it becomes quite apparent that Synthetica suffers from some of the same issues that plagued Fantasies. For all of their intense, full-throttle highs, both albums are remarkably hit or miss. It’s a rare feat of craftsmanship for a band to alternate between effortlessly sustaining accomplished, high-octane stadium rock with yawn-inducing formality, but this oddly seems to be the pattern that Metric is falling into.
Make no mistake about it though- when Synthetica works, it raises the powerhouse sensibilities of Fantasies to another level entirely. It’s more polished and precise than it’s predecessor (which is saying a lot because the production on Fantasies practically had it’s own sheen). While her vocal range is limited, Emily Haines sounds less willing to remain comfortable which leads to the album’s aforementioned edginess. Plus, Metric seems to be glimpsing in new directions in terms of evolving their sound. “Artificial Nocturne”, “Youth Without Youth”, and “Speed the Collapse” are not exactly reinventing the wheel (in fact, the synthetic pulse of “Youth” sounds downright Goldfrapp-ian) but they show a band not only unreliant on repetition but interested in exploring as well. This is why it feels all the more disheartening when Synthetica inexplicably loses all inspiration in it’s midsection before regrouping for an above-average final set- beginning with the album’s eponymous track but not counting the meandering “Wanderlust” bizarrely featuring a lost Lou Reed (yes, Lou Reed). So far, Metric seems to be a victim of their own talent. It’s impossible to argue the band’s technical merit, but their now trademark inconsistency renders them a frustrating band to enjoy on purely an album basis. Perhaps their defining release will be a Greatest Hits collection ten years from now. That thing should be dynamite.
- Fr. Jones