"Don't let anyone tell you to give up on your dreams," Metric singer Emily Haines urged the crowd at the Trocadero Friday night. "We haven't given up on ours."
That kind of sentiment - vague but forceful, generic yet impassioned - is a rock star's stock in trade, but these guys aren't stars, exactly. In a shimmering minidress, her frame silhouetted by fog and blue backlights, Haines played the sultry frontwoman, but she couldn't resist cracking the occasional goofy smile, her tongue protruding in mock disbelief.
There were no escape valves in Metric's songs, particularly those from Fantasies, their self-released third album. "Twilight Galaxy" opened with droning synthesizers and wobbling theremin before blending seamlessly into a robotic stop-start rocker. During "Gold Guns Girls," Haines' shoulders jerked up and down as if the snare drum were wired to her central nervous system, which is about what it feels like when one of the band's irresistibly airtight anthems gets under your skin.
Although older songs like "Dead Disco" and "Hand$hake$" cast a dystopian glow, the songs from Fantasies were more guardedly optimistic, if not exactly upbeat. "Sick Muse" and "Satellite Mind" mix romantic disappointment and self-empowerment, while "Stadium Love" gleefully envisions the world as a Darwinian arena where species fight for survival, gladiator-style. The song's title doubles as a statement of purpose. With its massive guitar chords and booming drums, stadiums are where this is meant to be heard.
Metric is still a midsize band, big enough to pack the Troc if not sell it out, but its ambitions are laudably boundless. "Gimme Sympathy" takes the form of a pep talk from Haines to her bandmates: "Who would you rather be - the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?" It's an audacious question, but Metric isn't inclined to shy away from aiming high, and more often than not they hit their target.
Sebastien Grainger, who opened for Metric and has remixed its songs, fell wide of the mark. Dressed in a white jumpsuit mirrored by those of his three bandmates, he played driving, glammed-up electropop that offered more attitude than substance. A schtick as pronounced as Grainger's needs to be delivered with conviction to avoid seeming merely foolish, but Grainger came off like a party guest who's still singing along at the top of his voice after the music's stopped.