Synthetica by Metric (MMI, Crystal Math Music Group, and Mom + Pop Music, 2012. 43 minutes)
Metric is a Canadian new wave and post-punk revival band consisting of Emily Haines (vocals), Jimmy Shaw (guitar), Joshua Winstead (bass), and Joules Scott Key (drums). Metric’s previous release, Fantasies, won “Album of the Year” and contributed to Metric earning, “Band of the Year” at the 2010 Juno Awards. Metric’s music has been featured in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Job Search Ruminations
In the last year, I spent some time unemployed. I must say, it is a position I do not wish on anyone. Countless resumes drifted into the void of hiring manager’s recycling bins. It always seemed like employment was one meeting away. I would hear, “You should talk to this person; he has the same background as you.” I talked to that person. He would say, “You should talk to this person; he has the same background as you.”
The constant search and the limited results were disinflating. I felt like I had a lot to give to society through my work and it seemed like I would never get a chance. In such dark times, it’s difficult to look yourself in the mirror. You don’t see a world-changer; you see a Luftmensch.
With Synthetica, Metric asks us to look into the mirror, to see society and our reflection for what is—no matter how positive or negative.
Youth without Youth
The album’s first single, “Youth without Youth” introduces the listener to this theme. With a series of unpleasant juxtapositions, vocalist Emily Haines descries the loss of childhood and the gain of life’s shifty realities.
“Hangman we played / Double Dutch with a hand grenade / Behind the church, hiding place / Apathetic to the devil’s face / Wear the sheriff’s badge / Put your toys away / They let us go saying. ‘Let us pray’”
Our lives are complicated. The innocent games we play carry grim consequences. We’re not so young anymore. Can you recognize how you’ve changed?
Even further, “Breathing Underwater” cuts to the heart of apprehension in the current climate.
“I’m the blade; you’re the knife / I’m the weight; you’re the kite / They were right when they said / We were breathing underwater / Out of place all the time / In a world that wasn’t mine / To take… I’ll wait”
While it’s not necessarily a song about the increasing difficulties young people encounter when they are on the job search, “Breathing Underwater” holds a prophetic voice. More and more, the emerging generations engage in a society which isn’t their own. In a world where you are left to the whims of the economy, it’s pretty easy to think you’re breathing underwater.
Dreams So Real
In perhaps her most personal lyrics during “Dreams So Real”, Haines takes time to reflect on her contributions to society.
“There’s no feast for the underfed / All the unknown dying or dead / Keep showing up in my dreams / They stand at the end of my bed / Have I ever really helped anybody but myself? / To believe in the power of songs / To believe in the power of girls / Though the point we’re making is gone / Play it stripped down to my thong / I’ll shut up and carry on / The scream becomes a yawn”
What devastating yet poignant questions for an artist to look herself in the mirror and ask! In the wake of such overwhelming poverty worldwide, can anyone justify singing songs for a living? For Emily, she’ll shut up and carry on until the scream becomes a yawn.
Musically, Synthetica augments these themes of doubt, falsehood, and a lack of ownership by placing a heavy emphasis on synthesized bass. The pointed use of electronics links clearly with the disconnection of youth.
But aside from these lyrical and musical thematics, is Synthetica an enjoyable album? On this topic, I’m not certain. Emily Haines’ melodies are catchy but the musical accompaniment is pretty straightforward. While the instrumentation is certainly limited by the way it augments the lyrical motif, I remained uninspired. As I listen to Synthetica, I want more musically; I want the instruments to echo the precise care by which Haines crafted the lyrics.
For this reason, as much as I like the theme of Synthetica and as much as it reminds me of my difficulties on the job hunt, I find it hard to recommend.
Verdict: 3 out of 5