Inspired by the lyrics from the Velvet Underground’s classic “Pale Blue Eyes,” one might think that Metropolitan’s sophomore effort Down For You Is Up aspires toward a similar level of achievement. They have good taste in heroes, and an understated and intriguing cover image, but from these lofty heights of inspiration — influences the likes of R.E.M., Sonic Youth and Pavement — this DC trio sadly fails to deliver the kind of personality that warrants a lyrical reference from (arguably) the most influential rock ‘n’ roll band ever.
The inchoate beginnings of raw talent and a naïve understanding of the “cool band” factor carry the record, but the anima, the soul and the righteousness of a band that digs their own shit is a flickering, neon vacancy. “Westmoreland” opens the program with Shyam Telikicherla’s percolating bass followed by John Masters’ pseudo-cockney drawl. Masters’ guitar, swift and energetic, is paled by his own vocal style, which suggests a dated era when plaid flannelled types were mindlessly droning about heroin, runaway trains, and teen angst.
Percussionist Saddat Awan provides a short and subtle respite from Masters’ aural assault as vocalist on “Girl from Montpelier,” but an overall lack of enthusiasm propels this record into mediocrity. Metropolitan never strays far from the easily catchy guitar/bass/drums pop formula and is as experimental as their riffs and bass lines are repetitive. Three years after Side Effects, their debut (as a duo), Down For You Is Up is an ironic non-homage to “Pale Blue Eyes,” Reed’s ballad of great depth and feeling.
But, we all know what they say about the second album. Somewhere in these 33 minutes of stale indie spirit is the stuff of Crank, a noise label, and the personal thumbs-up of producer Chad Clark of Fugazi fame. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the repressed sound of Masters’ real voice through the veil of affectation.