Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? by Metric – a Twenty-Year-Old Time Capsule (By Madeline Byrnside)

Mirror Kissers Online x The New Curious City

September marked twenty years since Canadian indie rock band Metric released their debut studio record, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now. A defining and yet underrated record, the four-piece had unknowingly created one of the most timeless and honest pieces of music to come out of a post-9/11 era. War on terrorism, capitalism, and a genuine disdain for the indie sleaze and post-punk counterculture of the early 2000s is the overall theme of Old World Underground. In some ways, these aspects are also its influences. However, Metric makes sure to balance it out by giving us tracks influenced by dating culture and possibly doomed relationships (or even friendships). 

In a 2003 Pitchfork review by Rollie Pemberton, the record is described as “a new wave-tinged exploration of off-kilter indie rock,” a statement which still accurately describes the band’s debut. Pemberton also makes a point to state how, at the time, Metric was still trying to find its space in the indie-rock world. Though I was only two years old at the time of Old World Underground’s release and unfortunately not old enough to experience the world and music industry during that time, I highly disagree. If anything, Metric seemed to have their sound and general vision as a band figured out way before they were expected to – and honestly, were not given enough credit for it. 

At first listen, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now is a near-perfect record. It is a perfect introduction to the world of Metric and in many ways almost sounds like their namesake. Joules Scott-Key’s percussion and Joshua Winstead’s bass lines are incredibly organized (it’s worth noting that Winstead’s bass performance is one of my favorites of all time) – and when mixed with James Shaw’s guitar makes for some of the most fun and clean performances of this time period. However, the star of the show is none other than Emily Haines. Haines’ vocals and performance on the synthesizer are Metric’s bread and butter, bringing everything together in one perfect, entrancing, and passionate mix. It makes sense why they are still going strong twenty years later. 

In a video posted on Metric’s social media pages for the record’s nineteenth anniversary last year, the members stated their favorite tracks – the majority being “Hustle Rose.” A track that deserves its own article in general, it is one of the strongest and most memorable on the record. Along with “The List,” Haines’ vocals are haunting, strong, and incredibly sincere throughout the record and it is only heightened by the slick bass lines and enchanting synths. These tracks plus ones like “Succexy” and “On a Slow Night” highlight the band’s general distaste for the artistic and club scenes of the 2000s while also analyzing how the hell anyone got there in the first place. 

I first discovered Old World Underground, Where Are You Now in 2018, when I was about to turn seventeen, looking for colleges to apply to and I found myself questioning my entire life and who exactly I was surrounding myself with. I had genuine anxiety about the artistic environment I grew up around, and could not understand why. This was also in the disgusting and unfortunate period of Donald Trump and the beginning of what is now considered “anti-woke” culture. I was sent the track “Wet Blanket” by a now-ex-boyfriend and quickly fell in love with the entire concept of Old World Underground, Where Are You Now. I found the musicality of the record highly stimulating – it made perfect sense with its overall lyrical concept. Soon, my friends and I were trying our best to cover “Combat Baby” and “Dead Disco” in our living rooms. I remember an older male friend we had at the time verbatim called it “teenage girl music.” He turned out not to be a very good person. 

Metric had created a record that is borderline conceptual but perfectly nostalgic – not in ways that leave the listener feeling remorse or too much longing – but understanding. At many times, the record is poetic and can almost be considered a protest album – drowned in democracy, anxiety, and femininity but stands up straight when called upon as a new wave indie rock variety. Metric has left us with an incredibly underrated record that has stood the test of twenty years time by giving modern listeners a sort of diary or time capsule full of emotion, distaste, artistry, and politics. Old World Underground, Where Are You Now is a record still set in the early 2000s, reminiscent of a diary passage from that time period, but sounds modern enough to connect with audiences in this decade; And at some points, it seems as though it predicted pop music trends in the early 2010s. The record asks listeners a question: How much has the world really changed? And where exactly has it gone since? 

Stream Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? by Metric below!

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