Album Review: Metric, ‘Pagans in Vegas’
When Metric first emerged in the early 2000s, the Toronto quartet's mix of chalky guitars and adult angst contained enough rough edges to qualify its sound (more or less) as indie rock. Over time, however, Metric shed their indie roots. On Pagans in Vegas, the band's sixth full-length, their gradual transition to pop is complete with arena-scale hooks that carry little trace (sonically speaking) of the smoldering fire that once defined Metric's sound.
The band's attitude remains largely intact, though. On "Lie Lie Lie," frontwoman Emily Haines sneers about getting lobotomized as a jab at the media's depictions of women. Likewise, when she coos "You've been such a good girl" from the perspective of a paternalistic figure on "Fortunes," she makes the subtext – and the concerns that fuel her lyrical drive – clear even if she doesn't explicitly spell-out the song's central relationship.
Pagans in Vegas arrives as the first of two albums that Metric wrote this year. Mostly assembled in guitarist-producer Jimmy Shaw's studio, the album maintains a strong synthesizer basis throughout. Via press release, the band describes its upcoming effort as diametrically opposed with an acoustic emphasis that reflects Haines' writing bouts on visits to Nicaragua and Spain. Shaw and the rest of the band have a knack for using synths to walk a line between twee and dark, a juxtaposition they play with a great deal on this album.
It will be interesting to see how much Metric manage to mine those types of tonal conflicts in acoustic-based song arrangements, and the upcoming album will likely shed new light on Pagans in Vegas. In the meantime, however, Metric continue to flex their muscle as a pop band that has gotten most comfortable painting in broad, bold strokes and sounds surprisingly agile doing so.