“Their fans will stand by them ‘till the death, but this album missed the bull’s eye by a small margin…”
Metric | Synthetica
To put it bluntly, Metric’s fifth album, Synthetica, sounds like the type of album that is produced mainly for one sole purpose: commercialisation. Their music has always been consistently solid ̶ the songs from their second album, Live It Out, do well to support the idea that Metric has the potential to make very good music with interesting lyrics ̶ and Emily Haines, the lead singer, is great. The immediate problem at Synthetica’s front door is that, like so often, this streamlining means there is now something much more run-of-the-mill about their sound.
That is not to say the whole album should be tossed to the dogs: There are a couple of songs that stand out as a mild saving graces scattered throughout the album, but there are also songs such as ‘The Wanderlust’ (which features Lou Reed and and is swamped in an 80’s synth pop feel thicker than syrup) that warrant pushing the CD to the back of your shelf.
The album starts with ‘Artificial Nocturne’ which, with admission, is one of the “saving grace” songs mentioned earlier and sort of exemplifies what Haines meant when she said “Synthetica’s about what is real vs. what is artificial.” It starts with the lyrics “I’m just as F ̶ ed up as they say. I can’t fake the daytime. I found an entrance to escape into the dark. Got false lights for the sun. It’s an artificial nocturne” as it builds up from a synth accompanied by a fuzzy electric guitar to the addition of drums after the two minute mark. From this, the CD charges on to ‘Youth Without Youth’ where Haines sings about a damaged childhood. She sings “we played double-dutch with a hand grenade” and “we played hide and seek on the fire escape through the smoke we saw the flame it was a long wait till the fire truck came”. Next, ‘Speed The Collapse’ gives a poppy and extremely catchy narrative of an impending apocalypse. The end of this song marks the end of the only consecutively good songs on the album.
Following the less appealing ‘Breathing Underwater’ (which sounds a bit like Shiny Toy Guns), is ‘Dreams So Real’. In this synth-stuffed song, Haines chimes “Anyone not dying is dead and baby it won’t be long. So shut up and carry on. A scream becomes a yawn”, reassuring and encouraging the listener with the mantra that sometimes you just have to truck through things yourself. The next pretty good song is ‘The Void’ which really only deserves mentioning because the echo of “I can keep up” to “I stay up to prove” is similar to the echoes in some of Tegan and Sara’s songs. After a three song gap of not so remarkable lyrics (but still good composure) comes the final song, ‘Nothing But Time’, which closes with “I got nothing but time, so the future is mine.”
All in all, Metric are a good band and their fans will stand by them ‘till the death, but this album missed the bull’s eye by a small margin.