Review Summary: What would rock sound like if it were an STD?
I remember the first time I listened to Big Black
’s Songs About ***ing
. It was snowy as *** outside. I was sitting in a fraternity’s basement library, surrounded by books, old computers, and a really nice sound system, wrapped in wool blankets on an old broken couch, and staring at the layers of white slowly smothering the windows lining the room. I plugged my ***ty mp3 player into the jack, pressed play on “The Power of Independent Trucking” and, in a moment, the snow became broken glass, the gas heating the flames of an Albini-production hell, the books bats with wings that gave papercuts, and the old computers stuffed in cardboard boxes waiting receptacles for steel-toed boots.
It was a powerful moment, as I’m sure it was for everybody who began that album not knowing the ***storm they were wading into. It was controlled, yet chaotic; catchy, and yet dissonant and disgusting. Its influence on the North American underground music scene was comparably high on the Richter scale, opening the gates to a feedback-laden, power-tool texture guitarwork that had previously not been corralled into an accessible “rock music” formula, its intense domestic and personal focus in lyrics helping distance it from the self-consciously heretical, impenetrable metal scenes and give it some decent radio airtime.
As times have become economically tough from 2007 on, though, bands that have succeeded most are the bands that are happy and catchy, that distract us from what’s wrong. I mean, “Chillwave” was actually a thing at the very height of George W. Bush-depression, pure blissful escapism made listenable. In this environment, the offspring of the accessible grossness nurtured by Big Black
, and early Nirvana
were not able to economically thrive, or even survive.
Cue the wave of successes for noise-rock in the 20teens. The Black Angels
’ Phosphene Dream
, A Place To Bury Strangers
’ Exploding Head
, Future of the Left
’s The Plot Against Common Sense
, the too-late reverence of the bygone Fugazi
and the up-and-coming scuzz-surf-rock of FIDLAR
(see “Cheap Beer”) signal the respective turn-arounds of the economy, from bad to better, and the alternative music scene, from escapist to critical.
On the very cusp of this very noisy wave (of mutilation?) is the signing of Canadian noise-rock trio Metz
to SubPop and the release of their debut, self-titled album. The historical parallels in their own take on noise rock is evident from start to finish: the ear-splitting guitar tones and feedback solos, the mechanical power-drumming reminiscent of Big Black’s classic Roland, the chugging kraut-rock bass engine at the heart of the machine, the vocals that sound like they were run through both a reverb pedal and a loudspeaker- it’s all the right ingredients for dystopic fun.
And at it’s best, Metz
is just that: angry, thrashing, galloping fun. The hazy, seizure-inducing assault of “Wet Blanket” makes me want to convulse to the two-three-four of the snare drum; the two-chord violent awakening of “Get Off” is both energizing and sinister, like a crooked smile, with a chorus that could be an anthem for Redditors the world ‘round; and “Negative Space” is a nearly perfect apocalyptic jam session, building, shifting, and transforming into ever more disturbing slithering riffs and rhythms-- until it abruptly cuts off with a relatively timid guitar squeal.
The common thread between the successes of the album, is that they dabble in both dissonance and melody. For every feedback freakout on those songs, there’s also rather catchy riffs, accessible vocals, and interesting bass guitar-main guitar interplay. The downfall of the poor tracks on the album is that they don’t dare to get melodic. Despite stunning intros, both “Rats” and “Knife In The Water” never evolve sufficiently from their pummeling verses to hold attention for the long haul, and the two brief instrumentals, “Nausea” and “--((--”, are completely forgettable and unnecessary.
Despite these missteps, Metz’s first outing is promising, invigorating, dance-inducing, and a kind of homecoming for lovers of the loud, the raucous, and the tinnitus-causing. Noise rock is back like it never left, and it’s got some really rusty axes to grind.