Metroscene – First Light at Last Orders

First Light at Last Orders

For a self-released album, this one is about as professional as they come. Metroscene says they’re from Athens, Ga., but they have more in common with Brit-posters like Blur and Pulp than, say, REM. In fact, Oasis opened for Metroscene at Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival. Not a bad thing to put on your resume.
Metroscene’s music is, quite clearly, modern rock, the kind of stuff that would sound right at home on those stations who refrain from playing today’s style of rage-rock. They take a page from the aforementioned British pop artists as well as American rock artists like the Gin Blossoms, but they take a slightly different approach. While the guitar-driven riffs and pop hooks are still there, they go for a more atmospheric approach, and that’s where this band stands out. With swirling, layered guitars and a soaring, almost ambient sound, they provide something new that really works for them, when it’s done right.
Some of these songs perfectly show off Metroscene’s talent. The instrumental “Theme from M,” for example, is a rocking track accompanied by sonic, blistering guitars over a moody intensity, and it’s very unique. The lengthy “Peel” has soaring vocals and a more quiet, moody, layered feel that works quite well. Another instrumental, “Countdown” is really rocking, with some fantastic guitars, and “Morphia Sunset” has a very thick guitar sound contrasted by light, almost spacey vocals. It works for them. The closer, “Nocturne” also has a kind of dreamy, spacey feel, and it nicely finishes off the album.
When Metroscene goes the more pop root, their songs are less unique but still quite well done. “The Modern Decline” starts things out with fuzzed-out guitars and distorted vocals, maintaining a very modern and edgy approach. “Magdalene Sam,” which puts more emphasis on vocals and pop structure, doesn’t work as well despite it’s catchy chorus, and “The Change” might be a little too sweetly poppy, although it is damn catchy. And “Ashes” actually reminds me of the Posies. “M.O.D.E.R.N. Girl” really has that Brit-pop sound, with fuzzed-out vocals and driving guitar lines that brings Blur to mind, while “William Youth” has a bit of an XTC pop sound. “Virginia Dare” again has a bit of that happy Gin Blossoms feel to it.
This untraditional Athens band has some real potential. Their use of layered guitars and soaring effects really makes some songs quite strong and unique. But they do have a penchant for returning to the radio-friendly pop sound. And while even those songs are good, they’re not living up to the band’s potential. For a debut full-length, however, this is excellent stuff.