Metric – Pagans In Vegas

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Metric's fifth album will satisfy longtime fans, but Matt Hacke can't help asking if the synth-rock band are pushing their boundaries enough, or just remaining comfortable.

Canadian synth architects Metric have been around for ages now, and whilst the band have never really made a play for the indie mainstream, they have still accumulated a committed fanbase, thanks in part to five solid albums, the first of which, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, came out in 2003. Their sixth effort, Pagans In Vegas, screams quintessential Metric from the get-go, superficially in the artsy (potentially pretentious) cover and title, but more importantly in the unashamed reliance on Emily Haines’ beguiling soprano vocals, which lift over busy electronic instrumentations. However, I can’t help think that whilst their new-new wave, synthetic aesthetic is fascinating, and worth a trawl through their back catalogue, here it is just a bit too uninteresting, a bit too comfortable to make Pagans In Vegas a satisfying listen.

The overarching comfortable nature of the work however, does allow the band to record with some real swagger, which plays productively into some of the tracks. Opener, Lie Lie Lie sets a really strong benchmark, and the heavy synth bed positively reminds me of Goldfrapp circa Supernature. Whilst the following track, Fortunes, hardly has the same arrogant timbre, it is still remarkably assured, shifting smoothly from a blip-rock introduction into a restrained, swooning chorus which shows off Haines’ strong vocals to great effect.

It’s all well and good to be confident, but invariably on Pagans In Vegas, Metric seem all too content to churn out work that frankly seems unimaginative. Whilst the stride of Lie Lie Lie is continued and even exacerbated in the “Woo hoos” of Too Bad So Sad, or the pulse of Blind Valentine, it isn’t aptly supported by the innovative songwriting one would think it merits. At times, unfortunately, Metric can be accused of being downright boring here, with the bloated Cascades and For Kicks in the centre of the album proving to be the worst offenders, each of which extends to around the five-minute mark.

For diehard Metric fans, there will be enough here to make Pagans In Vegas a worthwhile purchase, as aside from the aforementioned Lie Lie Lie and Fortunes, The Shade is also a decent listen. Yet uncoincidentally, these picks are placed as tracks 1,2 and 3 on the album, and the further one gets into the LP, the more apparent it becomes that there isn’t a lot going on here. Yes, it’s confident, but it’s also comfortable, and maybe a bit of divergence or innovation might be in order in their next effort.

Picks: The Shade
Rating: 2/5