Metric - Synthetica
The Canadian quartet’s fifth album is their most appealing and most fully realised to date. They’ve always revelled in the frosty chill of their aloof cyber-rock but here Metric raise the temperature just a couple of degrees with startling results. And boy, do they wear their new approachability well. Built on the angular lyricism of singer Emily Haines and bolstered by arrangements that fuse their love of the analogue and the digital, it’s now deliciously unclear as to whether Metric are a guitar band or a beefed-up synth pop outfit. In spirit (and certainly onstage), no doubt, the former but Synthetica parades its name with pride and newcomers may finally get to understand what the fuss is all about.
2009’s Fantasies gave similar hints of a broader pop methodology but Synthetica is considerably more compelling. At its centre, Haines holds court. Balancing both brooding intimacy and stirring polemic, she delivers a flow of words as precision-etched as they are stream-of-consciousness. How else can you counter the startling album opener of ‘Artificial Nocturne’ (“I’m as fucked up as they say…”) with the spoken word ‘Dreams So Real’, where Haines broods “Our parents, daughters and sons believed in the power of song / What if those days are gone?” Elsewhere, the Bolan-esque razzamatazz of ‘Youth Without Youth’ gets stabby with the synth and stomping with the beats. ‘Speed The Collapse’ apes Arcade Fire, rollicking and rolling in hyper 4/4. A mid-set breather demonstrates their range: ‘Lost Kitten’ and ‘The Void’ are entrancing and sweetly rendered. Lou Reed turns up on ‘The Wanderlust’ and we thank him for his time. But his presence is an unnecessary and unwelcome diversion on an album from a band whose singular vision remains as sharply focussed as ever.