2003’s Old World Underground was a cracking album. So too was 2005’s Live It Out. More so, in fact; it was a truly exciting prospect. Four years on, then, Metric are releasing what is surely the culmination of their cumulative talents, indelibly etching their name into the granite face of contemporary music. Or are they?
From the outset it’s obvious that the winning Metric formula has not been jettisoned. Rather, it has been tweaked, and opening track and lead single, Help I’m Alive, would slot nicely into any previous release the group have put their name to. Emily Haines’ vocal retains its pronounced-yet-languid quality, the chorus thunders resolutely, and a change of tack ushers in an acoustic guitar at opportune moments.
So far, so good. There’s a touch of repetition apparent, but at this stage it’s nothing too disconcerting. Metric classic Hustle Rose, for instance, put such duplication to good use, though it’s questionable whether or not Help I’m Alive can claim to be such an electro-tinged, trance-inducing odyssey of a track.
Sick Muse carries the torch with similar panache but more visible conviction. Haines’ railing against Cupid is a genuine lyrical highlight – rendered all the more infectious with a full throttle, uplifting chorus – and the bare guitar interplay on which such treats are founded is little short of irresistible.
Satellite Mind, however, flags up a concern or two in its arrival at the same destination by the same methods. As a near-facsimile of its preceding track, it’s a well written, foot stomping, intelligent piece of indie-tinged rock. For Metric’s loyal following, though, it is a suggestion that an organic rock sound has usurped the electro leanings that encroaches into – and indeed enhances – the band’s legacy.
A case of expectation spoiling the party, then? Victims of their own success? That may very well be the case. Twilight Galaxy, a low volume poetic piece, pales next to a Calculation Theme, and Stadium Love, for all its bombast, lacks the incendiary qualities of a Monster Hospital or Empty.
Having said that, bands with stacks of plaudits can rarely be blamed for consolidating their status with a touch of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Gold Guns Girls boasts a stylish indictment of malcontentedness, juxtaposing its component parts to terrific effect, and Gimme Sympathy exhibits a more embraceable Metric, its chorus hinting at a timeless quality that may ultimately render it the album’s highlight.
And yet reservations remain. Standing alone, Fantasies is an accomplished, enjoyable LP. Next to its siblings in the Metric back catalogue, however, it seems to lack urgency, a sense of the essential, dynamism, and even the touch of righteous anger that made itself known now and then. Moreover, in downsizing the electro constituent, moments of repetition – both musical and lyrical – are no longer as appealing.
We’d still recommend Fantasies to the Metric layman. But if you happen to know that Emily Haines once snarled that “all we get is dead disco, dead funk, dead rock and roll, remodelled,” it is knowledge that may raise its head once or twice through the course of this album, smearing its sheen somewhat. Fantasies is a good record, but it could have been great.