Listen to this track by Torontonian nu-new wave musical quadrangle Metric. It’s “Combat Baby” a single released at the end of 2004, and eventually featured on their second record Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? the following year.
It’s quite a statement to make. But, I feel that Metric is most interesting band in Canada, and in a great of deal of other countries too, to have grown to prominence in the 2000s. So, take that Arcade Fire. They certainly don’t appear to be running out of creative steam, going from strength to strength. “Combat Baby” is one of their earlier singles, and just listen to it; full of post-punk texture and pure pop hooks, while somehow not betraying one aesthetic over another. Magic.
Another thing that it notable about this band is that even if they follow a number of existing musical threads, there is something about how they process them that allows the band to come off like they are cutting their own trail through the indie wilderness, rather than regurgitating what has come before for an audience that may be unfamiliar with the source material. In this alone, they are in a league by themselves. And how do they prove that here?
Well first, it comes through in their stylistic approach, which takes the stark lines of classic post-punk and adds quintessential 21st century indie-pop ingredients to it so as not to come off as predictably and uninterestingly retro. I think the real strength behind this song, and others, is the writing from frontwoman Emily Haines. In the end, songwriting gives form to the style, no matter what that style happens to be. That’s what you’re getting here, even if the textures in this tune are well-traveled ones.
Even the subject matter is familiar. This is a song about rage, rebellion, and the ability or inclination to resist complacency. It ultimately strikes me as a song about getting older, maturing, and feeling one’s fighting spirit of youth slipping away into more measured, reasoned adulthood. This kind of struggle is perhaps magnified in the life of the rock star, when the burdens of maintaining eternal youth, and not appearing to cave to the Man are arguably at their heaviest.
But, perhaps this is the song of any young person who kicks out the jams when they’re young, only to lose the spark later on when they have more to protect. Perhaps this struggle to hang onto rebellion is hard enough in the life of someone trying to hold onto their passions, without losing out to other obligations as one grows older. And this is where we can all relate, rock star or not.
Since this song distinguished them as being separate from the pack, Metric has built upon a succession of singles that make the increasingly rare grade of dabbling in other textures while still sounding as a part of a unified body of work. It all sounds like Metric.
For more information about Metric, check out ilovemetric.com, where you’ll find their most recent (to date) video and single “Breathing Underwater” as taken from their latest (again – to date!) album Synthetica. You can preview entire tracks from the album there as well before you buy the record.