, April 27th, 2009 08:57
The Quietus isn't in the habit of sympathising with rock stars — especially ones of a talented, beautiful persuasion — but life must retain some nagging frustrations for Emily Haines. Metric have spent over a decade struggling to break through indie's glass ceiling. Broken Social Scene, Haines' collaborative project with musicians from her native Montreal, have been lavished with praise and mainstream credibility ever since they released their eponymous fourth album in 2005. However welcome their success has been, it must be bittersweet for Haines to see her band eclipsed by her own side project.
If anything can redress the balance, though, it's Fantasies. The fourth album from Metric, it's a slick and stylish mixture of dirty disco, pop hooks and infectious glam that screams for attention. 'Help I'm Alive' may have a title that teeters dangerously on the edge of emo but actually boasts a deliciously dark and broody synthesiser riff topped off with Haines' yelped insistence that "my heart beats like a hammer", while the New Wave punk thrill of 'Gimme Sympathy' boasts the kind of maddeningly catchy chorus that Girls Aloud would sell their souls all over again for. Best of all, though, is the fabulous 'Gold Guns and Girls', which recounts the adventures of a gold-digging protagonist over the top of rumbling bass and violent, staccato electric guitars.
Even when the pace slows down, Fantasies remains engaging. With its airy, layered vocals and hazy, druggy melody, 'Higher Than High' sounds like a Space Oddity for the ketamine generation: Metric can clearly do spaced-out bliss as well as fired-up exhilaration. 'Collect Call' also offers a glimmer of tenderness, a glimpse into the morning after as Haines experiences the comedown blues. "When the fire's out, how are you gonna keep me warm?" she pleads sombrely over a slow, sensual riff that would sound suitable at the world's saddest campfire.
The only frustration with Fantasies is its failure to capitalise on the momentum it siezes. It should be an album that has you constantly gasping for breath, but some overlong tracks and an occasional lack of killer hooks — the kind that will rattle round your brain for days afterwards — allow too much recovery time. It grabs you but, rather than pinning you to the ground, lets you escape after a slight scuffle. Some ruthless snipping and a few more drops of disco gold could have raised the adrenaline level higher, but Fantasies still packs a mighty pop-punk wallop. It may be style over substance, but when it has such effortless, psychedelic glamour, who cares?