Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Metro - Metro - 1977

Contemplate the death of glam rock and any number of mortifying factors can be weighed, from the over- abundance of ultimately faceless teen idols to the under- exposure of the handful of bands who could have respangled the old star-studded sham. But timing also came into it, and if you want to talk about missing the boat, Metro never even found the harbor. Metro was released in early 1977, but it belonged to late 1974. Not to be confused for a moment with the later incarnation of the band that danced through the early '80s, the original Metro comprised vocalists Duncan Browne and Peter Godwin -- Godwin alone carried the flag into the future. Smartly suited on the cover of their only album together, the pair resembles flamboyant gangsters, caught unaware on a brightly lit film set. Step into Metro, however, and the only illumination is the flame of a few guttering candles, and the only laughter comes from a champagne party winding down in the penthouse upstairs. It's an album of velvet-layered secrets and satin-sheeted mysteries, where lovers wear lace and have hearts carved from jade and the string section swells to save your ego the bother. Lavish choirs, murmuring synths...Cockney Rebel and the Doctors of Madness both glanced in a similar direction, but, though a synth pop group later kidnapped the phrase's true meaning, Metro was the original orchestral maneuvers in the dark, with only Bryan Ferry on hand to drive the survivors home. The symphonic "One Way Night," a profession of a love that needs more than a word of explanation, and the agitated drama of "Black Lace Shoulder," regretting a failure to live up to such standards, cloak the album like giant bat wings, vast and comforting, but dark and leathern all the same. And they have no hesitation in scooping you up and away, through the fires that dance on "Flame"'s romantic Seine and into a criminal world of such brutal conflict that even "the girls are like baby-faced boys." Long before David Bowie wrapped calcifying fingers round its alabaster throat and hauled it away to Let's Dance land, "Criminal World" dominated Metro, both musically and thematically, setting a stage for a black sexuality that leaves you feeling somehow soiled, whether you (think you) understand the song or not. Certainly British radio realized something very dark and dingy was happening, as it banned the single version of the song without even asking for an edit. The 45 bombed, the album sank, and, by the end of the year, the original group had gone the same way. The album, however, remains a dirty secret, a secret sin, a sinful pleasure, and glam rock's final gleaming. How unlike it to leave the best till last. -AMG