If there is one lesson to be gleaned from Nightlife, the debut full length from New-York-based hip-hop duo, the Metermaids, it’s that you got to leave something for the choruses. The Metermaids, primarily comprised of emcees Swell and Sentence, hit every verse as hard as they can, but virtually every chorus on Nightlife is lazily phoned in. Suffice to say, the album is made all the more unmemorable for it. The chorus for “Come Home” consists of little more than the phrase “won’t you please come home” sung atonally and repetitively. Similarly, the chorus for “Feel Alive” is simply “that’s when I feel alive” repeated four times. Basically, you could pick a song off the back of the album and make a decent guess on the lyrics of the chorus by adding two or three words to the title.
Swell and Sentence have their moments though. When they focus on themselves and their general modern malaise, they are frequently funny and charmingly self-deprecating (“Assed out sitting in the office went to college/ For six years to work retail with fifty other artists”). When they attempt the street-poet speaking truth to power angle, the results are a little more mixed. The level of insight rarely gets elevated over vague simplifications like “politicians practice their about face.” Fortunately, the duo is wise enough to not dwell in that world for too long.
However, there is one more glaring issue on Nightlife that both Swell and Sentence have to answer for: their voices are comically gruff. Understand that when I write this, I do not mean to imply that their voices are naturally comically gruff. I’m implying that the duo is making an ill-informed attempt at sounding forceful and edgy and is inadvertently landing on comically gruff. It’s sort of a petty complaint, but it’s pretty distracting. Fortunately, something like this is easily corrected and hopefully will be corrected by the time the next Metermaids album comes out.
The instrumentation end of Nightlife is a little more consistent. Producer Matt Stine and DJ Space Caboose rarely let the energy level dip below raucous. The few reflective tracks that exist on Nightlife are still fairly energetic. “Come Home” is as melancholic as the album gets, but the song’s beat is lifted directly from the Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” which is about as far from dismal as you can get.
Yet, at the same time, the uniformity of the mood does have the effect of making no song any more meaningful than the others. Consistency at the expense of lacking a standout does not sound like the worst tradeoff in the world, but it does make the album a little rote. In spite of the numerous aforementioned flaws, the Metermaids do deserve some credit for successfully filtering hip-hop through a number of unlikely styles. I can’t think of any other hip-hop group that has reminded me of the Arcade Fire, even briefly. So if that’s worth something to you, then the Metermaids might be right up your alley. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the silly voices though.