The Toronto-based quartet Metric have the grinding energy of the Kinks, the noisy dismissal of Sonic Youth and the swagger of Blondie. But while Metric’s music harkens back to these past greats, it has a secret weapon that none of the rest of them had: the flawless voice of Emily Haines. At turns breathy, cooing, growling and shrieking, her voice is completely irresistible. Some of the slower, less powerful songs on the the band’s new CD “Let it Out” — “Too Little Too Late” and “Ending Start” — might have been a loss were it not for the amazing purity of her voice. It’s simply captivating.
For those of us who couldn’t get enough of Metric’s debut 2003 release, “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?,” there’s finally something else for us to peruse — not to mention dance to. Metric’s follow-up delivers on all the sweet and venomous promises of “Old World.” It has the wiseacre, poppy-punk catchiness we’ve come to expect, but now Metric’s music also has a more raw, less structured feel. This loosening of their musical bootstraps allows them a lot more freedom of movement, and this album is a real dancer.
Haines is at her best in a song like “Handshakes,” where her voice is both slippery and percussive — a perfect way to deliver a line like “Buy this car to drive to work / Drive to work to pay for this car.”
In live performances, Haines is completely comfortable stomping and swaying on the stage. Her voice is sexy and strong, but never pandering. She never gets cutesy with us, and that’s pretty damn rare.
My favorite songs on this album are the ones that deal with pushing the envelope of what it means to be a woman. These songs are what No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl” was supposed to be and wasn’t. In “Poster of a Girl,” Haines confesses “I take somebody home / To find out how I feel / I feel like just a baby / Portrait of a lady / Poster of a girl.” It’s a feeling of loss and incompleteness that’s further dealt with in “Patriarch on a Vespa,” which asks the question, “Are we all brides to be?” In every instance, the narrator is fighting against the more confining aspects of her gender definition.
But don’t let all that girl stuff fool you. Metric rocks. There’s more than enough bad-assedness for every woman and man in the audience. And if you get a chance to see them live, jump at it.
For more information on Metric, visit http://www.ilovemetric.com/band.html.