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Metric: Dance by Numbers

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Oct. 19, 2005

w/ The Lovely Feathers & The Most Serene Republic
Oct. 21, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Although Emily Haines' voice recalls Carol van Dyk's, you'd never mistake Toronto's Metric for Bettie Serveert, thanks to the battery of buzz guitars and dagger-back beats gleaned from Goo-era Sonic Youth.

SY is admittedly the band's biggest influence, but its Metric's infectious pop hooks heard throughout Live It Out, released Oct. 4 on Last Gang Records, that pushes the band away from SY's anarchistic territory. You can dance to Metric, as evidenced by sneering head-bobber "Handshakes," which sports the ain't-it-the-truth line "Buy this car to drive to work / Drive to work to pay for this car." For every pseudo post-punk nugget there's an alt-radio-ready chugger like "Too Little Too Late." But Metric really breaks ground on noisy grinders like the CD's title track and the edgy "Patriarch on a Vespa" -- a modern-day fable you can pogo to.




While the band smears mud on a couple tracks, Live It Out is a mostly clean endeavor, with just enough smudges to remind us of the band's gritty club origins. The willingness to take chances comes in part from guitarist/producer Jimmy Shaw, who talked the label into letting him record the CD in a studio he built on the second floor of a Toronto bank.

"I was asking a lot of people to trust me," Shaw said from the band's Toronto rehearsal studio. "I didn't exactly have an enormous track record to back it up. I spent all this money on vintage gear -- a '70s-era two-inch recording machine, old pre-amps and tube mixers from the '60s. A lot of things could have gone wrong."

But they didn't, and with the moral support of mixing engineer John O'Mahony (assistant to legendary producer Andy Wallace), Live It Out made it past Shaw's own apprehensions. "John would listen to songs that I didn't want on the record and say, 'This is perfect.' I needed to hear that."

Blame Shaw's ingrained perfectionism on his degree from New York's prestigious Julliard School, an experience he says that has done nothing for his career. "I stayed for my dad," he said. "He begged me not to quit."

Shaw detested the school's rigid approach to music. "I hated that world and didn't want to be in it," he said. "Here was the best music school in the world filled with kids that have no idea what they we're doing. They just sat in a practice room and learned one person's interpretation (of a piece) that they will perform the exact same way for the rest of their life. It blew me away how uncreative the environment was. Total mathematics. It made me rebel against everything I heard up to that point and play as loud and obnoxiously as I could.

"I don't know where the diploma is," Shaw concluded. "I'm not part of that world at all. One day, when my Fender twin has blown its last power tube, I'll just pick up my trumpet and play it the rest of life."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 19, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.






"Here was the best music school in the world filled with kids that have no idea what they we're doing."