Two years ago, Metric dropped their fourth effort, Fantasies, with catchy-as-fuck compositions "Sick Muse," "Help I'm Alive," and "Gold Guns Girls." It was so well received that frontwoman Emily Haines was taken aback when, upon meeting Lou Reed at a Neil Young tribute concert, the legendary troubadour took her hand and recited back the chorus to Fantasies' "Gimme Sympathy," which asks: "Who would you rather be/The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?"
"It was kind of the best thing ever," Haines says by phone from Detroit, the second stop on Metric's current tour. "Something happened in my heart; it made up for a lot of bullshit. Quick on my feet, I said, 'The Velvet Underground, of course!', and he thought that was pretty fuckin' clever."
Perhaps still buzzing from the career highlight, Haines had the impulse to corral Reed into the studio to lend vocals to the track "The Wanderlust," which appears on the Canadian band's impressive Synthetica (Metric Music International). "I was determined to achieve the feeling with that song of contrasting this unbelievably optimistic, bright-eyed idea about seeing the world captured by me in the chorus, and then having this sort of cautionary, world-weary voice saying 'Wanderlust will carry us on,' " Haines says in her best Reed impression, and laughs.
The Metal Machine Music composer refused, as Haines puts it, "to work with a digital Emily," and the two ended up collaborating old-school — face-to-face in the studio. But instead of showcasing the union or going the Killers-with-Reed route by leading off an album with the team-up, the band bring "The Wanderlust" in as the second-to-last track on Synthetica. That's not because it's a bad song, but rather because it doesn't have to sell the album, which is already stellar from start to end, with the bounce of single "Youth Without Youth," the intensely unassuming title track, and the ridiculously infectious "Breathing Underwater."
Now five records deep, Metric have somehow managed to keep stepping it up, despite sonic tweaks or experimentation, consistently sounding invigorated and authentic. Maybe, like Haines says, it's the band's willingness to "bust our asses" when no one else was giving them the time of day. "I think all the breaks we didn't get were, in fact, lessons," she says about the lack of major-label acceptance. "They really forced us to create our own autonomous existence, which I think we always wanted, anyway. All the different ways you can go to be validated and endorsed, it just never happened for us, and maybe that was the blessing in retrospect — the things that didn't happen."
METRIC :: The Orpheum, 1 Hamilton Place, Boston :: September 20 @ 7:30 pm :: All Ages :: $28.50 to $33.50 :: 617.482.0106