On November 2, 2004, George W. Bush was well on his way to a second term in office. That same day, politicized dance-rockers Metric were on their way to Canada, crossing the border as the election was being called. The symbolism of the situation wasn't lost on them.
"You can't plan that!" Metric singer Emily Haines exclaimed of the group's emigration from its Los Angeles base back to its hometown of Toronto. "It was so dramatic."
Now geographically dispersed — Haines and guitarist James Shaw in the Great White North and drummer Joules Scott-Key and bassist Josh Winstead in San Francisco — the group reconvened this past winter in its Toronto home studio to record Live It Out.
Due October 4, the follow-up to 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? acts as an emotional flipside to the frustrated, feisty, call-to-arms temperament of their debut (see "Metric's System: Beats, And Political Subtext").
Much like the mood in "blue states" the day after the election, the disc features a mix of resignation and resolve.
"We're acknowledging that yes, there's an endless supply of disappointment and justified concern, angst and sadness," Haines said. "You can fight it, but sometimes you need to create an alternate world to survive."
"What we're trying to get across is, 'fight off the lethargy,' " Shaw said, quoting the lyrics to "Combat Baby," a manifesto from their debut. "Don't feel beaten down by the world, use what energy you have to create the life that you want. Live It Out is an extension of that."
"I fought the war, I fought the war, and the war won!" Haines sings on the band's uptempo, guitar-fueled first single, "Monster Hospital." Metric are considering a menacing Roman Polanski-like video treatment for the song, which speaks to their uphill battles while trying to make a mark in the music industry.
Record label struggles, touring fatigue and general career disappointment had left the band emotionally fractured, and a breakup seemed imminent. The band scattered: Emily wrote and contemplated a solo career, while Shaw escaped on tour with compatriots in Toronto indie collective Broken Social Scene (see "Broken Social Scene's Hard Road To Windsurfing Nation").
"We were a little bit at our wits' end" Haines said of their last tour. "I didn't feel like fighting so hard and we went through hell for a long time. It was a feeling of being in a forest, making your own path and just believing that it was a worthwhile pursuit, then realizing that every road leads to a six lane highway full of 15-passenger vans."
Eventually, a renewed sense of purpose came from a re-energizing trip to France, where the band received encouragement from its idols in Sonic Youth and filmmaker Olivier Assayas ("Demonlover"), who included the band in his upcoming film, "Clean." Then came the realization that fans wanted more. "What inspired us to continue was getting perspective and realizing that we resonated with people," she said. "I feel an intense loyalty to those that understand the emotion behind what we're doing."
While the Metric system hasn't changed drastically on Live It Out — perhaps a soundclash of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blondie and Stereolab — the songs are more diverse. "Too Little Too Late" is the straight-up love song Haines said she would never write, "Poster of a Girl" features a chorus sung in French, and "Ending Starts" is a slow build to a hyper climax." Old World is this upbeat dancey record, whereas on this one there's a whole range of tempos," Shaw said.
"It's more soulful and introspective," Haines explained. "It's more abstract ideas of being alive instead of specific ideas about, say, the government. It was a valid pursuit to spend a great deal of poetic energy to point out what was flawed, dishonest and wrong in the world, but I couldn't contribute anything positive by just being pissed off. We needed positivity."
Not afraid of what almost killed them last time, a massive 45-date North American tour kicks off September 22. "Metric is not an easy band, and we've known that all along and it's kind of our point: We're trying to be courageous, and that's a hard thing to keep alive."
Live It Out track list, according to the band's label:
- "Glass Ceiling"
- "Too Little Too Late"
- "Poster of a Girl"
- "Monster Hospital"
- "Patriarch on a Vespa"
- "The Police and the Private"
- "Ending Start"
- "Live It Out"
Metric tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 9/22 - Guelph, ON @ University of Guelph/ Peter Clarke Hall
- 9/23 - Hamilton, ON @ McMaster University/ Quarters
- 9/26 - Kingston, ON @ Stages
- 9/29 - Toronto, ON @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre
- 9/30 - Ottawa, ON @ Capitol Music Theatre
- 10/1 - Montreal, ON @ Club Soda
- 10/2 - Boston, MA @ The Paradise
- 10/3 - Providence, RI @ Century Lounge
- 10/5 - New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
- 10/6 - Brooklyn, NY @ Southpaw
- 10/7 - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
- 10/8 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 10/10 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle
- 10/11 - Atlanta, GA @ The Loft
- 10/12 - Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
- 10/13 - Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
- 10/14 - Cincinnati, OH @ Top Cats
- 10/15 - Cleveland, OH @ The Grog Shop
- 10/17 - Detroit, MI @ The Magic Stick
- 10/18 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
- 10/19 - St. Louis, MO @ Creepy Crawl
- 10/20 - Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck
- 10/21 - Omaha, NE @ Sokol Underground
- 10/22 - Minneapolis, MN @ Ascot Room at the Quest
- 10/23 - Winnipeg, MB @ Ramada Conference Centre
- 10/24 - Saskatoon, SK @ Louis Pub/ Univ of Saskatchewan
- 10/25 - Regina, SK @ Riddell Centre/ Univ. of Regina
- 10/26 - Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall/ Univ of Calgary
- 10/27 - Edmonton, AB @ Starlite
- 10/30 - Vancouver, BC @ The Commodore
- 11/1 - Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Café
- 11/2 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
- 11/3 - San Francisco, CA @ Slims
- 11/4 - Los Angeles, CA @ The El Rey
- 11/5 - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
- 11/7 - Tempe, AZ @ Big Fish Pub
- 11/8 - Tucson, AZ @ Plush
- 11/10 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room
- 11/11 - Austin, TX @ The Parish
- 11/12 - Houston, TX @ The Meridian
- 11/13 - New Orleans, LA @ The Parish
- 11/15 - Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum