Metric: Formentera Album Review | Pitchfork
In 2003, Metric arrived with a bitter look in the rearview mirror. “Dead disco/Dead funk/Dead rock and roll/Remodel/Everything has been done,” spat Emily Haines on “Dead Disco,” one of the band’s first Canadian radio hits. By this time, they had already gone through music label hell. First, they had accepted a short development deal with Warner Bros. in 2000 that resulted in a demo called Mainstream EP and their supposed first album Grow Up and Blow Away, then had moved to indie label Restless to release the album in 2001, only then for that label to be sold that year to another label called Ryko Corp., which led to that album going unreleased for the next six years. (Ryko Corp. was then bought by Warner Music Group in 2005.) It took a whole new label (Everloving), and a whole new album, for Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? to finally be released as Metric’s debut. They were, understandably, a bit jaded about the whole thing.
Now, almost 20 years later, the band have become Canadian indie rock icons, all while continuing to play savvily on romantic nostalgia for the “old world underground” that could still afford to be picky about “selling out.” They’ve also put their money where their mouth is, starting their own label Metric Music International (MMI) in the process of working on 2009’s Fantasies while turning down a couple of multimillion dollar offers from the majors in the process. For those following in their footsteps, though, the patchwork approach to artist development and financial support has only intensified since the early ’00s, when the music industry was still flush with cash and willing to take risks on talent, and weren’t themselves beholden to the star-heavy economics of streaming. Not only is it harder to say “our band could be your life,” it’s harder for most bands to support their own lives, let alone to turn their career into a cause, or statement of values. It’s into this increasingly precarious space that Metric’s eighth album, Formentera, arrives, echoing the memes about frivolous spending in the aughts that disguised the ever-growing distance between young adults and home ownership. On Formentera, Metric are fixated on the swift, silent retraction of the ladder that allowed them to ascend, and the foreignness to new listeners of the path they took to get to that elder status.
“Doomscroller,” the more than 10-minute krautrock-lite opener, is the main attraction here. Anchored by a rippling bassline that erupts with bursts of noise and supported by a gently sung paean to the “salt of the earth underpaid to serve and scrub the toilet” and their struggle against the “ruling class trickl[ing] piss from champagne glasses,” the song takes a class struggle subtext and renders it as bolded and underlined text. This newfound intensity extends to the rest of the album, drawing on tools like funk-rock bass fuzz and double-time drum sections to heighten a sense of ever-present agitation. “False Dichotomy” weaves new wave fuzz with a squiggly synth line that sounds like it could be ripped straight from Prince’s “Delirious.” It revels in the contradictions of rock stardom, which ostensibly rebels against conformity but often creates its own consumerist traps right along the way: “Show me something that can’t be bought/It’s harder than I would have thought,” Haines sings in a menacing but celebratory tone.