Metric is one of those bands I’m surprised I like. Ever since I first heard Breathing Underwater in summer of 2013 I was hooked on the Synthetica album and found I enjoyed some of their earlier stuff even more. Metric’s neo-new wave indie pop rock sound is what makes them unique but it’s their hooks that have made them one of the hottest bands to come out of Toronto. Breathing Underwater has even crossed over in to top 40 stations, which I always found odd – enjoying a song that’s played alongside the plastic pop songs of the mainstream. One might have worried that now that Metric has had a taste of such exposure that they’d be hungry for more. Now that they’ve recently followed up Synthetica with their recently released Pagans In Vegas, we finally have out answer.
Pagans In Vegas finds Metric dumping a lot of their indie credentials, with over programming their instrumentation and leaving almost half of the album with little to no instruments that aren’t synthesizers and Emily Haines‘s already radio friendly voice. Four songs in a row, Fortunes, The Shade, Celebrate and Cascades all prove that Metric’s priorities have shifted elsewhere. Sure the chorus of Fortunes is very catchy (although its main keyboard riff is annoying as hell) and people seem to like The Shade, but if I never hear the other two songs again, it would still be too soon.
The songs where there are more actual guitars and drums being played in a way familiar to Metric fans are a hit or miss in terms of effort. Pagans in Vegas’s opening track Lie Lie Lie fools you, with Metric playing the modern new wave music that have made them what they are today before being followed by the four above mentioned tracks. For Kicks and The Governess has a familiarity to it that fans would like, both are rather melancholy (just like most of Metric’s best tracks) neither really push any boundaries for the band. Guitarist James Shaw takes lead vocals for the song Other Side which is the only thing that really differentiates the track from the other indie rock songs from Pagans. All of these songs are enjoyable, but I’d expect a band on their sixth album to do a little better. Too Bad, So Sad is the only track that I find shines a positive light on the album, showing signs that the old Metric hasn’t gone too far.
Metric has some past songs that are quite well written. Nothing super ingenious but they’ve had the aspects of writing some great hooks and rhythms in the past. They completely throw that out the window with the wasted track Blind Valentine. At twelve tracks almost fifty minutes in length, Pagans in Vegas surely could have done without this one. You have to wait until the last instrumental track(s) The Face, Pt. 1 and Pt.2 to hear some exceptionally solid song writing by the band. Part 1 is a five minute instrumental, mostly played with synthesizers (again with little guitars) that manages to keep my attention throughout. It’s one of few times I find Metric’s new wave sound sounds reminiscent of classic 80s new wave bands like Duran Duran. Part 2 of The Face is merely just chord progressions played by a synthesizer which builds up in intensity until the final chords are hit in a loud and pungent fashion with a sound that could go right through you.
Quite frankly, Pagans in Vegas‘s best moments would be considered mediocre moments at best for past Metric albums. I don’t know if Metric are trying to transition into a plastic top 40 pop band, or if they are trying to find a way to match the success of Breathing Underwater in the form of a full album, but they couldn’t have fallen any shorter. Pagans in Vegas is saved by a few good moments, otherwise it falls under perhaps the most disappointing album I’ve ever reviewed. There are signs that the old Metric is still in there somewhere, we just have to hope they come to their senses and come back to us.
“The Shade” – I’m only picking this because I’ve spoken to a few people who actually like this track. It does have some old Metric in it, along with its catchy chorus make it the best of the pop songs that Pagans In Vegas has to offer. It’s also one of very few Pagans songs that has actually grown on me.
6 (Out of 10)
|1.||“Lie Lie Lie”||4:25|
|7.||“Too Bad, So Sad”||3:24|
|8.||“The Other Side”||3:51|
|11.||“The Face Part I”||5:01|
|12.||“The Face Part II”||3:20|