Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Do Metro Station actually exist? Like the first Gulf War there is a case to be made against their actual corporeality. They appear as an illusion, Californian ciphers, bloodless purveyors of teenage angst. It's not even the chronic lack of originality that is the problem, they are the musical equivalent of Stepford Wives – it is music designed purely for someone else's pleasure with no individuality. They may as well be automatons.
Metro Station represent all that is reprehensible about American popular culture. They are indicative of how marketing and promotional companies appropriate subcultures and different social conventions in a desperate attempt to gain an edge, to stay ahead of the curve and look cool to 14 year old girls. So what emerges is a tangled web of signs and codes – emo, tattoos, hardcore, breakdancing, hip hop, and skate culture. It's all fair game. The medium is the message – it doesn't matter what music is provided for the target demographic, just as long as something is released. The package is just as important as what it actually contains.
Formed by Trace Cyrus, brother to Miley and son of Billy Ray (erstwhile new country star of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame, although for me his career high was his cameo in Mulholland Drive) and Mason Musso, older brother to Mitchell. They met on the set of Hannah Montana in which both of their siblings star, in a meeting engineered by their mothers. Quickly gaining a huge following on MySpace they attracted the attention of Red Ink, a subsidiary of Columbia Records. Further proof that social networking groups have replaced the art of the A & R representative as the recruiting ground for most majors and that it has become a key part of their business model in terms of talent spotting and marketing. So, Hollywood connections and a large friend list on MySpace have led this group of privileged young men to international fame and, perhaps more importantly, sales. The album was first released in 2007 and created little stir, but is getting a new belated push in the UK due to 'Shake It' hitting the Billboard Top Ten.
Divesting yourself of all prejudice, you can make pretend that their eponymous debut album is pop music pure and simple. But it is badly executed pop music with little attention to song development or structure. “Seventeen Forever” sets the template; electro inflected energetic pop, power chords, the urgency of youth, a hint of sex, the peculiar urge singular to teenhood of wanting to be older but wanting to be embalmed at that age. These are themes that resonate through the ages to the early dawn of pop music, but go and listen to “Satisfaction” by the Stones and compare how tame the supposedly barely restrained sexual longing is. “Control” claims to be about, well, losing control but there is no drama, no narrative beyond the admittedly energetic track. “Shake It” is a chorus with a song bolted on, albeit a naggingly infectious chorus. Musso and Cyrus' vocals lack depth or dynamic, which is particularly evident on the appallingly flat backing vocals, and they go in for horrible accentuation and breathy delivery. The subject matter and lyrics may as well have been generated by some form of randomiser as they are completely interchangeable – boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy crashes Hollywood aftershow party to impress girl, girl eventually accedes, girl takes clothes off. Although not if she had listened to one of the questionable ballads on display. “Kelsey”, sadly not about Kelsey Grammar, is a particular offender, with it's refrain of 'I'll swim the ocean for you, the ocean for you, woah-oh-oh-oh Kelsey'. Elsewhere “Wish We Were Older” updates The Beach Boys' “Wouldn't It Be Nice” with a truly horrendous Europop backing track and some curious yodelling on the chorus, while“Tell Me What To Do” possesses the sort of lameass rap last perpetrated by Robbie Williams.
Tedious, turgid, wearisome, monotonous, weak, gauche, self absorbed, totally and utterly devoid of any content. Hype and positioning have granted Metro Station a position that their music certainly doesn't befit. There are a raft of electro pop purveyors around who write more original and interesting songs but that probably won't sell a tenth as many records. Actually, make that a hundredth. Perhaps Bill Hicks should have been granted his wish and Billy Ray Cyrus be hunted and killed, but that's stretching a point. The transient nature of pop music means that in a year this will hopefully be forgotten.
This article was originally produced for http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk. To read the music review of Metro Station on the site please click on the article title.