METZ are a caustic antidote for a cynical world, and II burns even better going down than their defining first album.
“We’re all moving backwards,” spits “Acetate”, the blistering first shot fired on METZ’s aptly titled second album, II. “Every day repeated / There’s nothing left to do.” If one were only paying attention to his lines, singer/guitarist Alex Edkins might sound weary, at the end of his rope. The lyric sheet on its own might even paint a good portion of II into a lethargic corner. While the pessimistic streak that singer/guitarist Alex Edkins has acknowledged sometimes rears its head in his words, METZ are hardly defeatists. On II, Edkins howls about the dying of the light, while he, bassist Chris Slorach, and drummer Hayden Menzies, all rage against it.
It is a curious continuity that there are two people sleeping in a place they probably shouldn't depicted on the cover of II, where there was but one on METZ’s debut. Are these guys all narcoleptics, or are they just utterly spent? Either way, II is a brutal response, as if Touch and Go Records’ classic Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard split 7” was tossed into a smelter, recast as a hand grenade, and lobbed at the impassivity of modern society. Edkins doesn’t keep a long hit list of the usual targets, though. His polemics can be wielded at any time against anyone, even himself, as in the opening lines of “Eyes Peeled”: “I’m not in love with / With who I am”.
METZ are a caustic antidote for a cynical world, and II burns even better going down than their defining first album. Edkins has noted that it was important to block out the pressure of expectation when it came time to write the record, and II does find the band more often playing to their strengths than looking for ways to expand their horizons. They didn’t go out and drop a bunch of cash on loading up their pedal boards, and there are no forays into crossover genres or dabbling with electronic sounds. METZ have circled the wagons and dug in for a nasty shootout.
That isn’t to say that II is self-limiting, or that they aren’t making progress as songwriters or musicians. They spent a considerable amount of time longer than most young bands would playing shows and touring before releasing METZ, and after touring so consistently in support of that debut since then, Edkins, Slorach and Menzies sound more naturally locked in with one another than ever. That they declare II to be “sloppier” than its predecessor perhaps goes mostly to show how skewed their idea of what qualifies as “sloppy” has become.
It is arguable that METZ made a habit of pulling off a lot more stop-on-a-dime moves on songs like “Rats” and “Sad Pricks”, while II doesn’t seem as bothered with showmanship or overt displays of technical prowess. Still, Menzies’ drumming is rarely ever less than lacerating, especially in places like the back-to-back demolition derby of “IOU” and “Landfill”. Reciprocating in kind, the focused onslaught of Slorach’s bass and Edkins’ guitar doesn’t often pause for breath.
Patience sounds less like a virtue and more like a vice on “Wait in Line”, perhaps the clearest collision of Edkins’ pessimistic streak with the inevitability of having to get on with things either way. “I’m waiting for the second chance,” he snarls, “I’m waiting for the ambulance, again”. If there’s no second chance, if and when the end does come, it’ll likely be somewhere entirely mundane: “I’m waiting for the sky to fall / I’m waiting in a shopping mall, with you”. Edkins could be equating the experiences of the world coming to an end and the endless boredom of waiting in a mall, or he could be illustrating the tragic possibility that, if life as we know it were to all come crashing down right now, a hell of a lot of people would meet their maker in a Walmart parking lot.
“Spit You Out” might be the one notable concession to slowing things down enough to give the titular shout-along chorus a fighting chance, and it is a standout for it, easily the best chance II has of getting any airplay (not that that matters anymore). As with debut highlights like “Get Off” and “Wet Blanket”, METZ have a way with grabbing an earworm garage rock hook, force-feeding it amphetamines, and making it stay up all night reading Kierkegaard and Camus. Their atypical hardcore weaves between math rock precision and dirty grunge riffs, conflicted about both embracing simple pleasures and getting mired in existential angst, and II is the internal fight sprung to searing, spectacular life.