Saturday, October 1, 2005

Records In Review: Metric--Live It Out

Just-out second album from local boys and girl Metric. I reviewed their first album, Old Worn Underpants--sorry--Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? here.

I have to say that this one is a mild disappointment. Whereas the first record required a few listens in order to get past some its more annoying aspects, its successor is just hard to warm up to, period. It's much more guitar-heavy (it's produced by gee-tarist James Shaw), and when the hooks are working, it's really good, but in general the arrangements are less interesting. Old World Underground, regardless of its relative strengths and weaknesses, stood out; Live It Out courts the banal to the point where they're probably engaged by now.

The songs are either guitar- or keyboard-based, and in the case of the former, the synths tend to be limited to atmosphere or middle-eight-type fills. Drummer Joules Scott-Key, whose playing on the first album sounded Ultravox-like, plays here in a more slap-and-bash style that's not entirely unlike this guy (for better or worse), while Emily Haines attempts a more sung, less declaimed vocal style than previously (better, I think). Lyrics are delivered in a less direct and less caustic manner, with one or two notable exceptions.

Only about half of the album is recommendable. The best of the guitar-based tunes are: "Too Little, Too Late," which sounds very much like a less gothic Interpol; the opener "Empty," which is an effective crescendo-decrescendo thing--more drawn out than anything off the first record; and "Monster Hospital," an obvious single choice and very infectious despite its almost-silly Foo Fighteresque chorus guitar hook. "Handshakes" is as annoying as the worst of album no. 1. I really wish these guys would drop the campy aggression. Bad lyric alert: "Buy this car to drive to work/drive to work to pay for this car." Sheesh, they make it sound like a bad thing. "Patriarch On A Vespa" and "Live it Out" leave me baffled by their inclusion, as they barely register at all. Of the keyboard-heavy stuff, "The Police And The Private" is the best, probably 'cos it's the most concise. "Poster Of A Girl" starts out nicely and has some of the best melodic material present, but its Euro-ennui French language outtro is pretty silly and long-winded, like a piss-take on this. "Ending Start" never finds its feet and comes across as a pale imitation of Treasure-era Cocteau Twins.

If I go on about influences, it's because they are not always very well integrated...or concealed, depending on your point of view. In short, which I seldom am, Live It Out is an album that you'll probably tire of in short order. Recommended only for die-hards and scenesters.