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Most current neo-new-wavers are either formalists or ironists, happy to have found a plastic sound and style they can remold without making any concrete statements about historical context. But judging from Metric's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (Everloving), front woman Emily Haines seems to have chosen synth rock simply 'cause she happens to play keyboards. Charting the mass media's colonization of the imagination, songs like "Combat Baby" and "Succexy" would sync up nicely with a jagged montage of America's Next Top Model and Fox war coverage; their indirect approach feels allusive where that of Haines's other band, Canadian art-rock commune Broken Social Scene, feels evasive. And in 2003 only Ted Leo proved capable of political rock as emotionally spot-on as "Dead Disco," a lament over the failure of music as a progressive force: "All we get is dead disco, dead funk, dead rock 'n' roll," Haines chants, defiant even in her powerlessnes and confusion. (Elsewhere she wonders if she's "wrong to want more than a folk song.") But if the pastoral fantasy of "Calculation Theme" ("I wish we were farmers") and the wistful quote from Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" on the closer, "Love Is a Place," suggest a dispirited retreat, the drive of the band's Strokes-gone-motorik groove and the probing quality of Haines's voice, which suggests a more earnest Kim Deal, insist that it's merely a strategic regrouping. South headlines. Tuesday, February 10, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

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