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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Metric: "Grow Up and Blow Away"

Does anyone remember the i-Zone? It was a little Polaroid camera that could print little messages on the instant photo. That was the gimmick, and quite unsurprisingly, it failed miserably. However, the North American television ads that accompanied this sure-fire failure contained a hidden gem. Floating in the background was a woman singing, "If this is the life, why does it feel so good to fly away?" The woman was Emily Haines, the band was Metric, and the song was a TV-friendly version of "Grow Up and Blow Away," the title track to their ill-fated debut album. Originally recorded in 2001 (or 1999, depending on your source), the album features Metric as a two-piece and was delayed again and again by their record label until it was finally shelved to make room for "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?" Six years later, and the album is finally being dusted off. Is it worth the wait?

Absolutely! "Grow Up and Blow Away" is immediately captivating, thanks to the lead-off and title track. The lyrics are back in their original form, Emily singing "Why does it feel so good to die today?" One of the things that's instantly noticeable is that Metric as a two-piece is a much more toned-down affair. With just James and Emily, the songs are often just comprised of a drum machine and synthesizer. The result is a Metric that is just as awesome as their current incarnation, just less chaotic.

It's all still really cool music though. "Rock Me Now" features a funky musical accompaniment and finds Emily merely speaking throughout its playtime. It's actually James that does all the singing on the song, which is quite a shock to hear. At the same time, it's an undeniably cool song, making you feel like throwing on your MIB-shades and bobbing your head uncontrollably. "The Twist" is another great song that utilizes an almost hip-hop beat. In the chorus, when James and Emily are harmonizing with each other, it's absolutely beautiful. It makes me wish that more of this will happen on future Metric albums, though the actual chances of this are slim.

Though hints of their current new wave sound are apparent throughout the album, the majority of "Grow Up and Blow Away" feels much more like a straightforward pop album than anything else. "Raw Sugar," for example, has a Corrine Bailey Rae-esque musical accompaniment and features Emily singing "I don't want to die living in a high-rise grave" in a very soulful way. It's very un-Metric like, but at the same time, it's still a really great song. "White Gold" is another un-Metric song, sounding more like it could've been ripped off of Emily's solo album, "Knives Don't Have Your Back" if it weren't for the harmonies and non-minimal production.

In the end, "Grow Up and Blow Away" is an album that all Metric fans should definitely check out. Though it peaks at the very first song, you'd be a fool to stop listening there. Even in their early history as a band, Metric shows an uncanny ability to craft brilliantly infectious pop songs that will stick with you for weeks and weeks. Although the sound of the album has a definite early-2000s feel to it, most of these songs stand the test of time (unlike the i-Zone). It may have taken six years to hit the shelves, but "Grow Up and Blow Away" is well worth the wait.

Recommended for fans of Metric and anyone who still rocks the i-Zone like it's 1999!

Key Tracks:
1. "Grow Up and Blow Away"
2. "Rock Me Now"
3. "The Twist"
4. "On the Sly"
5. "White Gold"

7 out of 10 Stars

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