LABEL: SUB POP RECORDS
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
Everyone’s favourite art-punk Canadians METZ are back with a new record that will leave your heart pounding, your ears bleeding and your eyes slightly damp from tears. If some of the tracks on ‘Automat’ sound like they were recorded in your mom’s basement using a tin can and a potato, that’s probably for a reason. The album is not a collection of brand new METZ songs but rather a delve into their back catalogue.
These are unreleased songs, B-sides, demos and other rarities from their early years, charting the history of the band. It’s a must listen for any METZ fans – and anyone discovering the band for the first time. Anyone at all, really, because it’s really easy to hear the development on this record, from the earlier tracks to the later ones, and it’s an interesting lesson on musicianship and songwriting. The band became tighter, the songs more well constructed, less like loose jams and more like proper singles, yet still retaining that fire and punk energy of the early basement style tracks.
“will leave your heart pounding, your ears bleeding and your eyes slightly damp from tears.”
Opening with ‘Soft Whiteout’ and it’s a full audio onslaught from the beginning, an attack on all senses where the vocals are buried so low in the mix of noise and discordance they’re barely audible. And that’s perfectly OK. It’s positively evil, and you don’t want to turn it off. Somewhere you can make out funky guitar chords, screaming, off kilter bass. What a way to begin. Continuing with the hypnotic, uncomfortable drone of ‘Lump Sums’. It takes a while for the vocals to kick in but when they do, they’re a bit easier to pick out than the previous track, although they sound menacing, drenched in effects and almost distant in the chaos of cymbal crashes and percussion noise. Both these were originally recorded way back in 2009. Compare these early songs on the record to even something like ‘Negative Space’ (5th track), which is a slightly alternate version of the same track that appeared on their first record, and you can hear the development. It’s clearly more structured.
The tracklist is all conveniently placed in date order, which means that by track 12 we’re on ‘Eraser’, their 2015 single and staple of their live set. With its energetic repetitive chorus, it immediately lends itself for steamy gigs and rowdy pits, and while it seems a world away from ‘Soft Whiteout’, there’s a clear connection running through them which is undeniably METZ. These guys have a unique sound and it’s almost reassuring to know they haven’t changed or altered it too much over the years, staying true to their routes while continuing to learn and grow.
“a nice addition to their catalogue and will satisfy new and old fans alike.”
Of course, many of the tracks on this album will sound familiar already to fans of the band, but there is something for the diehards too in the form of ‘Wet Blanket’ a totally unreleased demo. It has that late 80s punk energy and is bubbling with excitement and potential. It’s hard to understand why it never made the cut but then, these guys have so many great tunes to choose from, as ‘Automat’ goes to prove.
Although their last ‘new’ studio album was ‘Strange Peace’ back in 2017, ‘Automat’ is a nice addition to their catalogue and will satisfy new and old fans alike, perhaps bringing some fresh listeners to the table as well. Hopefully the trio will also be working on some ‘new new’ material soon too.