Metric - Formentera (Metric Music International)

Metric – Formentera (Metric Music International)

Sam Lowry, the main character in Terry Gilliam’s bizarre dystopian film Brazil occasionally daydreams of a fantastical existence, in which he transforms into a silver-armoured angel that flies above the clouds and rescues a beautiful damsel in distress. This was the coping method that the protagonist played by Jonathan Pryce uses to get through the absurdity of his reality – a world functioning by faulty machines and made suffocating by excessive surveillance. Long-standing Canadian rock quartet Metric (Emily Haines, James Shaw, Joshua Winstead and Joules Scott-Key) drew inspiration from the 1985 epic by mimicking the font used on the black comedy movie’s promotional material onto the album sleeve of their eight album. However their vision of escapism is rather more plausible. They dream about a real Spanish island called Formentera – of which the album title comes from – a place their minds gazed upon when seeing in a travel magazine. The Covid pandemic caused a big panic in the psyche of Metric, as they had to move away from the beloved Toronto-based studio of which they had made music for 15 years in and travel to a countryside-dwelling church. There also had to face a musician’s nightmare of not being allowed to play live concerts due to travel restrictions.

So the idea of escaping to the Balearic paradise of Formentera is what kept them going, and is the driving narrative of how Metric’s 9-track album unfolds. The album could be split into three sections; the anxiety-ridden pre-paradise (‘Doomscroller’, ‘All Comes Crashing’, ‘What Feels Like Eternity’), the transistional stage (‘Formentera’), and the rejuvenated post-paradise (‘Enemies of the Ocean’, ‘I Will Never Settle’,False Dichotomy‘, ‘Oh Please‘, ‘Paths in the Sky’). As the alternative rock album progresses fear turns into calm, as Emily Haines & co. learn that life is not always controllable.

The first chapter starts with the stunning shape-shifting 10+ minute ‘Doomscroller’, in which Haines begins by bemoaning the atrocities of the modern world, whilst also – due to easy accessibility of social media and television – admitting that she’s obsessed with documenting them: “Salt of the Earth underpaid to serve and scrub the toilеt ruling classes. Trickle piss from champagne glassеs” / ” I’m a true doomscroller. I can’t seem to shut it down. Until the worst is over. And it’s never over”. The gloom is coloured in with dark techno. Yet distorted vocals offer motivation: “Don’t give up yet, don’t give up now.” Before the track becomes a softer side of Wolf Alice with accompany words that provide a comfort hug the listener: “Whatever you do. Either way we’re gonna love you”.

‘All Comes Crashing‘ is a sweet and tragic end-of-the-world synth-rock song that suggests that when in the face of an inevitable apocalypse that’s when we chose who is the most important to us – could be a friend, a family member or pet rather than a partner. Follow-up “What Feels Like Eternity” is perhaps even more anxious than Formentera’s opener, as it’s all agony and a relatable one at that. During the first year of the Covid crisis – when most of us were only calling it Coronavirus – the restrictions and bad news never seem to be never-ending. Just the pandemic, the track teases a false ending at 2:54 before returning with the same repeated chorus: “It feels like eternity…”

But there’s hope…. We are now approaching paradise. Formentera is in our sights. “Why not just let go? The stakes are not my own” sings Emily Haines on the title track, as she learns to let go over her will to manage the uncontrollable aspects of life. The track features shivering orchestra that’s both optimistic and ominous, Fever Ray-like electronica, acoustic guitar and the key changes that makes it throwback to ‘Poster Of A Girl’ from Metric’s 2005 Live It Out.

After this point, Metric regain confidence in the world around them. Although it’s not as musically or lyrically fascinating as the first chapter of Formentera and goes a bit off-concept, there’s still some lessons to be learned. The clap-provoking Coldplay-redolent I’ Will Never Settle’ is a pep-talk advising themselves not to got to back to their previous mentality. It has the potential to be a sing-a-long anthem at festivals. Their new sense of self carries on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs-evocative ‘Oh Please’ in which Haines criticises those who act like scholars of her identity and on ‘False Dichotomy’– which recalls Neon Indian’s ‘Polish Girl’ – in which she shows excitement about the possibilities that awaken the Canadian when not having to choose between two direct opposites but deciding to mix them both. Love with hate, rather than love or not hate, as one of her examples.

Formentera’ ends with a descriptive ode to friendship. The U2-like ‘Paths In The Sky’ describes scenarios in which having a close friend is invaluable. “You dragged me out to cure the blues. That seemed to be destroying me. At the back of the bar in the basement By candlelight I couldn’t hide. Said tell me all your brutal news.” There’s still time to mention another doomsday scenerio, when she sings: “Till a meteor hits your apartment” but by this point Emily Haines and her band members have such confidence and a sense of ease in themselves and those around them that they probably no longer need to escape to a Spanish island or transform themselves into heroic angels like in Sam Lowry’s dreams.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.