Now that ’09 synthpop has apparently become an official term (at least according to the Guardian’s Guide from last week where contemporary slang was dissected), most 80s-sounding things have become more unwelcome to my ears than questions about censorship are to the Chinese government. Still, it’s hard to fault a band whose two albums both got nominated for Alternative Album of the Year at the Juno Awards, collaborate in Broken Social Scene, and are unknown enough in England for me to lecture/brag about to friends. Fantasies leaves their untouchable aura of brilliance intact, providing yet another reason to love Emily Haines and James Shaw.
First single and opener ‘Help, I’m Alive’ was in simplest terms a wet dream to Metric fans, showing their trademark sound remains as good as it ever was with poignant lyrics, a killer refrain and possibly even sweeter breathy vocals. It also provides a good insight into the rest of the album – even though the perfect musical formula from before remains unscathed, the political element that dominated earlier releases (‘I fought the war/I fought the war/I fought the war but the war won’) has been eclipsed by a more personal theme. The album involves more songs that centre on controlling your own life and the problems that fame and other unwelcome monsters have caused on the subject. ‘Help, I’m Alive’ sees Emily use her brilliant falsetto to ask why she shouldn’t do what she wants; ‘Sick Muse’ attacks Cupid for sticking his arrows in her; Metric turn their attention to the need of musicians to push themselves so hard they burn out for the sake of staying edgy on ‘Front Row’.
As a whole, musically, Fantasies is appealing as anything they’ve released with songs catchy and credible enough to match up to the highlights of their back catalogue - the chorus on ‘Gimme Sympathy’ has super heart-melting powers; ‘Stadium Love’ will force you to dance like it’s got a gun to your head. Lyrically it shows a more wistful side of the band – they’re not railing against rehashing of old stuff in the music industry or the left’s failure to galvanise against the Bush administration’s capitalist-war machine, so it doesn’t feel quite as angry, but there’s little trouble being as emotionally intense – if anything it’s a sign Metric are getting even better at what they could already do perfectly.
Standout Tracks: Help, I’m Alive; Sick Muse; Gimme Sympathy; Front Row