Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/09/2007
The underground music scene has always been a cesspool for inspired and refreshing musical ideas. This is due to the fact that artists who are part of this scene have always held integrity in high regard. Not that there was ever any conscious attempt to craft highbrow or pretentious music, but unlike hipster elitists, underground bands are conscious of producing grounded and quality material that they can call their own.
Hopefully, this album can translate into record sales, but since fate is rarely generous, there’s a greater chance for it to become part of the "Top 100 Albums of All Time That Should Have Been, But Wasn’t" instead.
The Canadian quartet comprised of vocalist Emily Haines, guitarist James Shaw, bassist John Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key has been playing their unique, quirky brand of art-rock music that has been common among Canadian bands of late. It may be quite an unexpected surprise that their excellent debut album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? released in 2003 garnered positive reviews and relative success in their community. However, those gloating success did not cross over the mainstream airwaves. But really, who cares?
Catchy and engaging hooks overflow from Old World Underground using the bare essentials of rawkin’ music (with lots of personality, no less). Sometimes, listeners might find the band’s minimalist approach a bit contrite for its own good. “IOU” definitely disappoints the hopeful by squandering an interesting buildup by a lame and barren chorus. Thankfully, things get better afterwards.
The next four songs (“Hustle Rose,” “Succexy,” “Combat Baby” and “Calculation Theme”) are some of the most eccentric, beat-filled and gripping music this side of the indie. Props go to both “Succexy” and “Combat Baby” for having the memorable choruses in the album, with the swirling verse keyboards and jangling guitars breathing life to the former song.
On the other hand, “Combat Baby” is catchiness personified in the album. The tangible poetic license (“We used to leave the blue lights on / and there was a beat / Ever since you have been gone it's all caffeine-free / Faux punk fatigues”) can only be equaled by the worthy chorus that pulls you up by your shirt and forces you to dance.
“Calculation Theme” takes an about-turn from the band theatrics to produce the most sensual and gripping song in the album. Devoid of any instrument except the cold, distant tone of the keyboard and Haines’s steady, yet haunting voice send shivers down the listeners’ spine.
The other songs have their chic moments, as “Wet Blanket” and “Dead Disco” would attest, but none of them are as exciting and exhilarating as the previous four, meaning the disc is a little top-heavy. Still, it does not take away anything from ther excellent music.
Old World Underground not only suggests how Metric is pregnant of musical ideas, but also adds another reason as to why the underground scene is still alive and kicking.