Anarchy in the ON
In 2007, when Jon Whitney put out a CD compiling some self-released EPs of ascendant New York noise gazers A Place to Bury Strangers as their de facto debut, it was an act of passion. A friend and then-editor of mine at his invaluable and long-running Internet resource Brainwashed.com, Jon frequently evangelized about the band to me, citing their deafening live concerts and role in a musical legacy that stretches back beyond obvious touchpoints like My Bloody Valentine. We’d had countless conversations about music over the years—and would continue to do so for fewer more years than I’d like to admit—but it was clear how much A Place to Bury Strangers meant to him at that moment in time. Jon and I spoke the same music-obsessive language, and I know that even if that record had not propelled the band into the spotlight, he was right in his assertion that they deserved to be.
It is with a similar feverish passion that I’ve come to sweatily proselytize on behalf of another clamorous rock trio, the dazzling act known as METZ. More Touch and Go than subterranean pop, the all-caps Canucks take obvious delight in devastation, much like their spiritual forebears in Killdozer, Scratch Acid, and the Steve Albini triple crown of Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac. Distinct from today’s garage punkers -in-name-only who lean on their overdrive pedals for casual kicks, METZ appear singularly driven by the perverse promise of chaos and discord, both of which are ever present on their delightfully agitating eponymous full-length debut.
It’s not everyday that a band comes along sounding equally like the Jesus Lizard and the Jesus and Mary Chain. But it would be foolish to mistake their evident awareness of genealogy as anything more than a display of respect for one’s elders. (Though not included on METZ, their faithfully igneous cover of Sparklehorse’s “Pig” is well worth seeking out.) Modern and menacing, METZ isn’t some rehashed mishmash; rather, it’s the next logical genetic step forward for angular, abrasive rock.
The closest METZ ever comes to accessibility, “Get Off” has all the jangly charms of a Ty Segall ditty, were it smashed to bits like a shipwrecked vessel. Otherwise, the record tends toward jagged riffs, bombastic drumming, and inscrutable yowls and yelps that outright mock conventional song structure. But the hooks are here, as they were on A Place to Bury Strangers’s aforementioned album. Militant yet dangerously nihilistic, “Wasted” is a jackbooted kick in the teeth, an explosive demonstration of howling humanity and ignorant sonics. If Toronto has thugs, this ought to serve as their anthem. “Knife in the Water” may or may not be thematically related to the 1962 Roman Polanski feature film, but any attempt to detachedly dismantle these contents under pressure could prove hazardous to one’s hearing.
This stark, shattering album signifies a notable, albeit subtle, aside for Sub Pop, a label once teeming with mucky delinquents with mediagenic names like Cat Butt and Tad. Arguably more influential now than ever before, the vibrant Seattle imprint is presently known for lighter indie fare that soundtracks the very important comings and goings of new residents of East Williamsburg (read: Bushwick) and their existential, geographically displaced peers. However, with the addition of METZ, Sub Pop now has two (three, if you include last year’s incognito Kurt Bloch curio Full Toilet) volatile noise rock bands on the roster, the latter being Allentown, Pennsylvania’s miscreants Pissed Jeans. As a sourpussed curmudgeon whose life was irrevocably changed for the better by the label’s back catalog, I’m truly grateful that Sub Pop speaks my language again.
Undeniably one of my favorite albums of the year, METZ shines brightly, like a Molotov cocktail at the moment of impact. This is that rare record, that rare band that makes one want to pull out the old soapbox, drag it into the public square, and shout atop it until I’m hoarse. As if convincing people to accept METZ as rock ‘n’ roll saviors were that easy….