Saturday, November 7, 2015

What Happened To Metric?

Metric at The Tabernacle, 2010
Prior to 2005, I was listening to a lot of new music - new at least to me - through all of the outlets available on the internet, including, yes, Napster, as well as other file-sharing platforms.  But by and large, up to that time I was looking, or listening, backwards, downloading albums from the past which I had missed out on during their initial release and exploring a lot of 1990s German electronica, Goa trance, Claude Challe's Buddha Bar anthologies, The Residents, free jazz, etc.  

But in 2005, as the indie rock renaissance began to emerge, I started for the first time in nearly a decade to listen to current releases.  The bands that first got my attention were Bloc Party, Spoon, and Black Mountain, and listening to those bands was like a gateway to new music, which led me to Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and others.

The Canadian band Metric also had a profound influence on me at the time.  Their music was sufficiently accessible as to encourage me to give them a serious listen, and on further exploration rewarded me with an appreciation of Emily Haines' virtuosic vocals and intelligent lyrics.  Haines makes it sound easy - that's a large part of her talent - but you don't realize how tricky some of those lines are until you try and sing along with them (that's probably also the reason that other bands tend not to cover Metric songs).  Without doubt, Metric were one of my favorites, and when I finally started going out to hear live bands again, they were one of the first shows I saw.

Live It Out, Metric's second album, was my 2005 intro to the band, but it didn't take me long to download a copy of 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, which is probably my favorite Metric album to this day.  By the time Grow Up and Blow Away was released in 2007, I thought the band could do no wrong, not realizing that the album was actually written and recorded in 2001 and not released until six years later and that I was listening to old, not new, Metric. Still, my admiration for the band continued with 2009's Fantasies.

However, although a few songs from 2012's Synthetica still sounded like vintage Metric and I tried really hard to like the album, overall I found it uninspiring.  Something was missing, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.  Since then, I've listened to a stream of their latest album, Pagans In Vegas, and was severely disappointed by the apparent decline in the band's songwriting and performance.  Unlike with past recordings, there's simply nothing on the album that I personally find appealing or interesting.    

I still enjoy the earlier Metric albums, so it's not like my taste has changed since 2005, which is definitely a possibility.  Some listeners to some bands become attached to the early albums and then later reject anything new by those bands simply because it's not the same old songs to which they've grown attached.  I've experienced that in my youth, when it might take me a year or so to come to accept a new album by one of my classic rock favorites, simply because their earlier songs had become so mythologized in my mind that anything else sounded like heresy.  That may be what's happened to me with Metric, but I doubt it as I still enjoy other current bands (Animal Collective, Silver Mt. Zion) who've gone through far more radical transformations in their sound since my 2005 "awakening" and first discovery of their music 

Or maybe, just maybe, it's not me but it's Metric that has changed.  Their eyes may now be on a different horizon that they were from 2001 to 2009, and the sound they're after now is not what it was then.  If that's the case, their perceived decline is not a failure on their part but merely a change of direction.  And if so, I wish them luck (who am I to tell an artist how to pursue their art?) but won't be following along, instead enjoying vintage songs like Dead Disco.   

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