Smart, sassy, edgy, sexy, fun, and pure pop bliss. These are all words that can define Metric, the band from Toronto by way of Los Angeles, New York and London. James Shaw provides the punk-driven guitars (how’s that for using a Julliard education?) and Emily Haines provides the voice, a combination of a slice of heaven and a dash of hell. The band’s sophomore effort, after an initial EP, the brilliant Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, was one of my favorite albums of 2003 and thus, the bar was set fairly high for the follow-up, this year’s Live it Out. To my surprise and delight, Metric surpassed my expectations and delivered what’s sure to be a classic pop record.
Old World Underground featured songs that were indictments of American politics, such as “Succexy” and “Combat Baby.” In the first single off of Live it Out, “Monster Hospital,” Haines gives us an update of the situation.
I fought the war, I fought the war
I fought the war but the war won.
The song starts with a punkified update of a fifties’ era scat, then screams into action with fuzzed out guitars and Haines’ firebrand vocals, proving once again that Metric are the best female fronted punk/pop band since Blondie. On the wonderfully titled “Patriarch on a Vespa,” more brilliant lyrics ensue:
Are we all brides to be / Are we all designed to be confined
Buy ourselves chastity belts and lock them?
Organize ourselves and lose the key
Our faces all resemble dying roses
From trying to fix it…..when instead we should break it.
We’ve got to break it before it breaks us.
These incisive words mixed with the Karen O.-like `ah-ah-ah-ah’s’ make for one of the most compelling songs on the album. “The Police and the Private” features Emily Haines doing a dead-on Jenny Lewis. But that’s not all! You also have the whispered French lyrics in the poppy “Poster of a Girl” and the six plus minute opener “Empty,” starting out like a slow Death Cab song until at two minutes in when Shaw’s guitar blows the doors off and then we hear the memorable chorus, “Shake your head it’s empty / Shake your hips, move your feet.” Then there are the great lines from “Handshakes,” “Can you face the pavement, for a happy dog and pony show?” and the observation of the paradox of consumerism, “Buy this car to drive to work, Drive to work to pay for this car.” The sharp witticism is just one facet of the greatness of Metric. They add it to music that is aggressive, poppy, muscular, tight, and hooky all at the same time.
Old World Underground easily made the band one of my favorites, which made it hard for me to believe that it could be topped. Live it Out is a gem with many facets, shining brightly lyrically, musically, and philosophically. As far as intelligent, sexy, pop-punk goes, it doesn’t get much better than Metric. Scratch that, it doesn’t get better…period.