2013 had some good reasons to – once again – develop some jealousy, mixed with admiration, towards Canada’s music scene. The shortlist for the acclaimed Polaris Music Prize that year contained, a.o., METRIC, COLIN STETSON, PURITY RING, YOUNG GALAXY and GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR. The latter won the award in the end for their surprise comeback record ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! But, as it’s always been their style: they argued against it. In an inspiring note released by their label Constellation Records the collective reasoned why they’re both thankful for and disgusted by this kind of honour. The letter, closing with the unbeatable lines “apologies for being such bores, we love you so much / our country is fucked, xoxoxox godspeed you! black emperor“, expressed a strange ambiguity that characterizes even a thriving music scene like Canada’s: On one hand it’s impressive that the most important music prize is awarded to such a band, on the other hand – where’s the point of honouring them anyway, if it doesn’t change the way things are run in this business.
There’s been another band on the shortlist that year, nominated for their breathtaking self-titled debut record for Sub Pop: METZ. Another rather unlikely band to be honoured as this record felt like it would be most happy to disrupt the whole music business at once. In a longtime unheard and uncompromising feast of noise, very basic grunge and frantic beauty the threesome Alex Edkins, Chris Slorach and Hayden Menzies made an impressive statement about the possible success of DIY attitude. And just like GODSPEED it seemed nuts to see them being nominated for the Polaris Prize that year. The band itself didn’t really give a shit, in fact, singer and guitarist Alex Edkins still today seems utterly confused by it.
I think giving grades or awards to art (music, film, books, paintings) is completely ridiculous. The bottom line for me is that people’s appreciation of art is very personal and completely subjective. It should be about how it affects you personally. That’s all it’s good for. We are always glad to hear that people connect with our music but I’ve never understood people’s need to say this is good or bad because there is no right and wrong in art.
Two years after the events and a few months ago, METZ released their new record II – a record that’s just as immediate and raw as their debut. It captures the energy of a band that exists for being on stage and not primarily for putting out records to sell. It even takes that energy to nerve-twisting new heights by enhancing little details. The process of writing it though, has been not as easy as the band itself initially planned it to be. Also, the enormous buzz that has been created around METZ by some media as well as the sudden recognition that comes with publishing an album on Sub Pop, could have easily been distractive. Not for a band like METZ.
After touring a whole lot we tried to get back to writing as soon as possible. But we needed to give ourselves time to decompress from the road and figure out what we wanted to make. Sometimes you just can’t rush it. We’ve always tried to take it one day at a time. We had been playing music together as METZ for at least 5 years before our first LP came out so it certainly didn’t seem over night. We had been building a fan-base in Toronto for many years. I think we did a pretty good job of blocking out most outside influences when it came time to write II. We really just wanted to let it happen and not overthink this record.
The result simultaneously sounds more prethought and refined while still remaining the raw impact of METZ‘ energy. “I think we’ve improved as songwriters, musicians, and producers.”, Edkins says about the album’s sound concept. “The sound is darker and bigger and also more restrained in certain moments. We wanted all the instruments including the vocals to have their own place. We didn’t want to pile everything together in one frequency range. I think it sounds more human and has more breathing room.”
The anger, of course, is still there. The claustrophobic anxiety of an animal trapped in a corner, kicking its way out. And it reflects in the lyrics on II.
The album deals with our everyday relationships with the media, consumerism, politics, acquaintances, dreams, medication, anxieties, and – ultimately – death. I think things like depression, isolation, frustration, anger, confusion, hopelessness are very universal themes in our world.
There is a danger of underestimating METZ in the sense that they’re just making their music for the sake of creating a beautiful mess and having a good time – these guys are reflective, they have a vision about what they do and how they present it is an essential part of it – be it their music, stage performance, videos or cover art. Just like on their debut record a photograph that Edkins’ father once took is emblazoned on II. Whereas the cover of METZ evoked feelings of simply being fed up, tired or let-down, this new one is atmospherically and stylistically associated but deals with a slightly different sort of feeling.
It represents the feeling of isolation. The figures on the bench can see where they want to go (across the see) but have no way to get there. They are trapped with a carrot forever dangling in their faces just out of reach.
Apparently, METZ came to stay. It’s not a temporary buzz, this band is in for the music and they’re willing to go the whole nine yards. They’re a seldom example of reliability AND uprightness that has nothing to do with calculus but with passion. It’s good to have these kind of bands around and it is important to honour their work. It’s unnecessary to give them an award, just let them play and record their music.