“What’s in a name?” quips the old Shakespearean adage. There’s no question why Toronto rock veterans Metric aptly included “Vegas” in the title of album #6. The connotation is dead on: futuristic, mechanical, an artificial mirage springing from the null desert inviting charlatans, thrill seekers, and sheep alike. None of it in the vein of the Metric we’ve all came to know and love. Call me a killjoy but this digression towards new wave synth pop of the 1980s guised in the form of a resurgence is not only blatantly obvious (we are smarter than you think music industry) but possibly harmful. You’re no longer pushing the envelope when everyone else is doing it, whether you helped write the book or not, as Metric did indeed. Two words. Identity crisis.
I will admit I am being particularly stringent on this listen given that Metric is a top 20 fave on my all-time list as they found themselves in heavy rotation on the soundtrack of my mid to late twenties (did I just age myself?) The only constant here is the brave, simultaneously sweet and sexy power vocals of pioneer and lead singer Emily Haines. But the shortcomings are evident from the gate. Lie, lie, lie opens up like the theme song of a midnight ritual sacrifice by some sort of rogue in the middle-eastern desert. That feeling intensifies in the following track Fortunes. The keyboard riff in the verse is painful; like when you walk into the synthesizer room at the Guitar Center to see you’ve been beaten by a feral 8 year old child plucking away at the keys for the first time. Had the timing been fated both numbers could’ve been featured on “The Craft” soundtrack.
An early win, perhaps the only one, comes next with hit worthy The Shade. A pop number of Herculean proportions sure to win over the hearts and minds of many, only to the surprise of the masses, it’s not Taylor Swift. The sentiment reverberates in the next track Celebrate. Another NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC offering only missing a cameo appearance by Wiz Kalifa. The song writing ability and musicianship rings out in “Cascades” with some clever note play only to be drowned out by played out Depeche Mode comparisons. The same with To Bad, So Sad, although Fantasies era Metric does peek through. The rest of the album muses on back and forth struggling with identity: from uber pop ballads to the unshakable mystique of a robotic assembly line. When it’s good it’s Top 40 good. When it’s bad it’s like being in a casino equidistant from a slot machine and the sit-in car racing section of an arcade.
Saving graces include a vocal switch in Other Side where guitarist Jimmy Shaw takes the helm. The Face Part ll shows serious promise if only it were a work alone and finally the reprise and acoustic version on The Shade is burning proof that they still got it. This was just a bad pass.