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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Orlando's Metropolis could hardly be called an overnight success. Bassist Texas, vocalist and keyboardist Alexander Corday and drummer Blake Osborne have been making music together in any number of different bands since 1991. In December of 1995, the group, at this point named Satellite Circle, entered Platinum Post Studios near Orlando to record their debut EP, Fade. The EP was released in March of 1996 on the band's own Steedog Records, gaining favorable reviews from several Christian music magazines and placing two of its five tracks, "Inside" and "You," into the modern rock Top 20.
Over the next three years, the band toured extensively, recorded an unreleased album, 1998's Satellite Republic, and appeared on several compilation efforts. In early 1999, the band moved north to Nashville and, by the summer of that year, were voted one of the top 25 unsigned bands by 7-Ball Magazine. In February of 2000, the band, which had changed its name to Metropolis six months prior, signed with Dez Dickerson's Absolute Records and released their Absolute debut, International!, in April.
Harking back to the days when alternative music was largely the domain of independent record labels and college radio stations, the International! album reads like a who's who of 1980s pop-rock music. The swirling, fuzz-toned guitars, raspy, droning vocal work and xylophone embellishments make "Lift Your Hands" a dead ringer for the post-punk sound of the Psychedelic Furs. The frenetic drum line and propulsive melody line of "The Things Love Makes You Do," on the other hand, hark back to "I Melt with You" era Modern English. And songs like "Shine with Me" and the best-of-album track "Want" offer up plenty of the funk-influenced club/dance music of groups like Depeche Mode, New Order and other like-minded alternative pop/rock acts from the early '80s. Far from being mere knockoffs of their respective influences, though, the members of Metropolis have managed to collect key musical elements from each of the groups above and combine them into a sound that is at once endearingly familiar and yet wholly unique. And over it all, the group blankets its music with just enough straight-ahead pop sensibility to insure that each song is as catchy as it is distinctive.
Despite its being, for all intents and purposes, a rock album, International! mirrors a large portion of modern praise efforts in its use of highly metric, often melancholy, language to address themes such as the believer's dependence upon, and desire for closeness with, God. "To Truly Love You" (To give myself to You/ With no unfaithfulness shared/ To break when You break/ To want You closer still/ Oh Jesus, to truly love You) exhibits a beautiful heartfelt quality and simple directness. "Everything With You," on the other hand, (Kiss her lips, her brow, her warm face/ Through everything I'm taking in/ Oh God, I want to live out everything with You) delightfully blurs the artificial line between true worship and everyday life. And, even minus their accompanying musical backdrop, the poetic, image-laden lyrics of "Gravitate" (Round around the black and blue/ Play out this daily centrifuge/ This solar orbiter undone/ She looks above this circulating crowd/ She knows that He'll soon surround) stand remarkably well on their own merit.
Suffice it to say that, while artists like the Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode and the Furs were rightly considered alternative at the time of their inception some twenty years ago, the current resurgence of '80s nostalgia, along with the rise in popularity of techno and electronica music in all of their many forms, has virtually assured that the music of groups like Metropolis no longer falls quite so far from center. But despite what might be considered its more "mainstream" standing, the International! release sports an imposing musical framework and keen set of lyrical insights that make it a decidedly individual and noteworthy entry into its particular sector of the rock music playing field.
Bert Gangl 2/6/2001