Sunday, 3 February 2013

METZ (GIG-GOING ADVENTURES)

Audio, Brighton, Thurs 31st Jan


Through being signed to Sub Pop and with a home page that takes sideswipes at the anti-rockism of the Constellation Records scene, I had thought of Canadian three-piece Metz as a grunge revivalist band.

Which they kind of are. But seeing them live I was more reminded of the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants.” It's like they're looking back at the history of noisy guitars all the way to the days of garage rock, able to pick up what they choose along it. Yet none of this is done in a knowing or citational way, things are simply picked up for use - the way a differently tuned guitar might be brought into play. They're actually pretty damn lively live, playing that kind of music to which you can't stand still, at one point the guitarist crowdsurfing while still playing.

Perhaps the most surprising ingredient is noise rock. That may be more of an inclination than an element, but it's definitely there. We're talking the imprint of the noise rock scene of the Eighties and Nineties – Big Black, Live Skull and early Sonic Youth – rather than anything that came along afterwards.

What might seem strange. At the time, noise rock was for many of us a gateway drug into fully-fledged noise. Through it we discovered that you could dispense altogether with song structures and other rock elements, and bathe in de-hyphenated, unalloyed, free-form fields of sound. Myself, I may not have taken to much of the stuff at the annual Colour Out of Space festival without that introduction.

Which raises the question, having made that journey - why bother to go back now? After all, once you've learnt to swim, don't you dispense with the water wings?

Yet I'd argue the opposite – why burn the bridges? It seems every piece that gets posted here has to feature one of the axioms of Lucid Frenzy, and this time it's 'in art, restrictions enable'. Pushing the envelope can have more traction than being outside of it, and balancing noise against rock give Metz the same advantages it did the earlier generation. Even the noise acts I rate, such as Merzbow, can sometimes suffer from a lack of context. Having come on like the end of the world turned up to eleven, what do you do for an encore? This kind of noise rock can work on the ears like a sweet and sour does to the tongue. The noise simply sounds noisier when erupting out of the tunes, which for their part sound sweeter when placed against the noise.

Moreover, Metz neatly incorporate the noise into their overall sound. One example would be the way the noise breakouts often occur at the end of tracks. I've always found interminable those extended workouts bands insist on making into finales, with the drummer going up and down his kit like he's stock-taking his instruments. They just sound like those conversations which never quite close - “I'll be off then”, “okay, bye”, “well see you” and so on. By substituting fields of noise into those areas, Metz slip the unexpected into the expected.

In short, a great live band. Guitars are dead? Nobody told these guys!

The gig's closer is probably a fairly good example of the blend I'm on about...


...plus an optical assault course of a video for 'Negative Space'...

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