Robot Rock at its finest. I’m not paying it a compliment, though. Pagans in Vegas, the Toronto-based synth-pop-rock quartet lead by Broken Social Scene Alumna Emily Haynes, have released their sixth full-length album this week to much hurrah and hoopla. It’s always hard to review an album by one of your favorite bands where you just don’t feel the excitement and good energy that they once gave you. Sadly, after giving this album a few listens, I went reaching for Fantasies (2009) and Synthetica (2012), “Pagans” far-superior predecessors.
While hearing Pagans in Vegas, I did find the opening track Lie, Lie, Lie to be a solid intro. Haynes trademark vocals (which is the highlight of all Metric albums) come off sweet yet venomous, as do they with Fortunes. By the time we arrive at The Shade, I feel as though I’m walking through a video arcade from hell. On Shade, which features tremendous songwriting and solid hooks, I’m distracted by the continuous Donkey Kong-like tones throughout the track. Luckily, the acoustic bonus track was included on my copy, which makes this song much more enjoyable for me. Celebrate is standout track for me as the flow between Haynes and her band mates is undeniably fluid.
Where it begins to take a downturn for me is on Cascades. Not a bad track, but the band begins to sound slick and anodyne. I start hearing other bands in the music—bands that Metric inspired and laid the template for, not the other way around. Rather than recognizing hints of Depeche Mode and Lou Reed, I hear heavy-handed lifts of CHVRCHES and Shiny Toy Guns, as evident on songs such as The Other Side and Too Bad, So Sad (possibly the most annoying song on the album.) It’s the inconsistency that bothers me the most about this album. Something about it lacks focus—it just falls all over the place, whereas their previous two albums were solid with laser sharp focus. I don’t think Pagans in Vegas knows what it wants to be. Especially when one listeners to the self-indulgent two-part epic closer The Face Part one and two. By the end of the album, I’m left wondering did the entire band even perform their instruments on this album, or did they simply rely on synths? I’m hard pressed to hear any guitars or bass with any level of significance.
The album isn’t a total wash in my mind. It’s just not my favorite offering from the band. While there are moments of brilliance on the album, I’m disappointed that the amount of songs that grab me only add up to an e.p.’s worth of material.
Visit I Love Metric for album details and purchasing info.