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Metric - Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

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Artist: Metric

Album: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

Label: Everloving

Review date: May. 24, 2004

Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? feels, in many ways, like a rock album masquerading as something altogether more complex and fashionable. Between its pointedly Eurotrashy artwork and its frequent gestures in the direction of new wave bleepery, it carries itself like another feather in the sequined cap of the electropop genre. Underneath its shiny surface, however, is a much simpler and, on the whole, much more compelling record.

On first impression, Metric seem to play the same game as Ladytron and I Am The World Trade Center: slick and slightly irreverent pop marked mostly by persistent synths and demure female vocals. Songs like "Wet Blanket," "Dead Disco," and the oddly political "Succexy" vamp along with a nearly sterile glamour, and, while they're successful enough in their own right, they fail to make much of an impression. But upon closer listen, other songs like "Calculation (Theme)" and the rousing "Combat Baby," have almost no electropop sheen to be found. Rather, they resound more strongly with plainer rock outfits like Rilo Kiley or even Veruca Salt (to name two with female singers), and it's these songs that tend to make up the album's strengths.

While the more new wave-inclined songs are seldom actively bad, they tend to complicate themselves unnecessarily. Many bundle together several different themes, but without much attention to transition. Individual tracks don't lose their overall integrity, but often sound more like successions of vaguely related interludes cobbled together for the sake of respectable song length. "Hustle Rose," for instance, settles into a perfect groove, but only after a strikingly irritating beginning and just before a second verse which bears little similarity to the rest of the song. By the time that track segues out with an excellent breakdown, it feels as if three or four songs have gone by; by the end of the album, it's almost impossible to believe that you've only listened to 10.

The high point of the album may well be Emily Haines's vocals and lyrics – while her smooth and occasionally precious voice does hint at that electropop affectation, she has an unassuming sense of dynamics that serves her well, especially on lines like "Tonight your ghost will ask my ghost / Where is the love? / Tonight your ghost will ask my ghost / Who put these bodies between us?" Likewise, the rest of the band sounds best when they eschew complexity for straightforward rock. And while its truly revelatory moments are few and far between, Old World Underground shows enough savvy and potential that, with a bit less distraction, it wouldn't be foolish to expect very good things from Metric in the future.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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