I like Metric. Their new release, Live It Out, is good. Their performance Tuesday night at the Empty Bottle was enjoyable.
In about three weeks I think I’ll be over all three.
Emily Haines and company have a sound and a style that they manage well. They’re a wonderful mix of synth pop and punk and are catchy and danceable and rockin-outable and often make me want to, and feel like I could, go out and kick some ass. But their sound just doesn’t stay fresh for long. At first listen Live It Out was exciting and when certain songs came on I’d stop what I was doing, give them my full attention and say to myself, Damn, this is good shit.
It took less than a week for me to get slightly bored, especially when I realized that this was nothing the Brits weren’t doing in the nineties and the New Wavers in the eighties and every Pseudo Punk since Punk could be pseudo. Not that taking from those who came before is condemnable. But I think that Metric is trying too hard, or perhaps not trying hard enough. They sound like they’re playing it safe and the result is blah; I want them to either shed all pretense and start banging their guitars against the walls, or to go the other way and start wearing matching shiny suits and sunglasses.
They’re halfway to that kitsch that would make them amusingly endearing. The Empty Bottle stage was decked in tube lights that ran along the floor and amps and even Joules Scott-Key’s drum kit. The house lights dimmed and a recording like a strange answering machine message from a B-horror film ran a few minutes before Metric hit the stage. Haines in her little black dress, messy blonde hair and with dark circles around her eyes looked like Uma Thurman after a lost weekend. Guitarist Jimmy Shaw and bassist Josh Winstead wore dress shirts and skinny ties. Only Scott-Key in his slacker jeans and shaggy hair didn’t look like he had just come back from a halfhearted nu-New Wave cocktail party.
The first half of their set consisted mostly of tunes from the new album, which Haines later commented she thought flowed well with the older stuff, despite critics’ apparent shock that they had jumped into rock with Live It Out. But rocker Emily Haines unfortunately is not. There were certain moments, like during “Glass Ceiling” and “Patriarch on a Vespa” when she abandoned her synths, grabbed the mike for dear life and let her jarring voice yowl, that I could see the punk rocker trying to break out of the post-punk. But for the most part she had the stage presence of a sexy automaton channeling Deborah Harry, throwing in pretentious head banging and running in place with high kicks that revealed her twiggy legs, and perhaps a little more.
I hate to turn this review into just an assessment of Haines’s performance but she is undoubtedly the biggest draw to the group, and her onstage insanity overshadows what the fellows in the band are doing, which isn’t much. Winstead even had time to stick his hands in his pockets when there was nothing else for him to do. During the show there were exactly four drunk guys in front of me and one behind, and all of them were dancing awkwardly, knowing that Emily was singing only to them. If anything I’ll give it to Metric for being able to make grown straight men dance like little gay boys. During the closer, Dead Disco, Haines leaned over the stage, got in the face of some guy in the front row, stuck the head of the microphone into her mouth and screamed. The guy looked up at her as if concentrating seriously on her refined performance. Give me a break. We all know what was going on in that dude’s jeans.
It was a fun performance. The energy was high and the sound was tight. Metric played for an hour, having to pack up early without an encore in order to be done in time for the later show, which was fine by me because this was the loudest concert I’d been to in a while and my ears were dead. Still, when the lights went up and we made our way out, part of me was looking back, hoping to see the band stumbling back on stage wearing boas, smoking pipes and chucking beer bottles at each other. No, what I really wanted was for the guys to come out bare-chested, wearing black lipstick and pleather pants while Haines dressed like Michael Jackson and told us all to go fuck ourselves. My god the possibilities are endless.