The three-piece Canadian band Metz has returned with a compilation of rare demos and unheard recordings that go back as far as 2009. Titled Automat, this is a pitiful excuse for an album. It stinks of desperation and is nothing more than an attempted re-release of old material, with the hope that the long-standing novelty of the ‘b-side’ would be enough to disguise how indolent and vapid this album really is.
The motivation behind a ‘b-sides’ release of this nature is to give listeners an intimate sound that truly speaks of a band’s raw nature in the studio. It is meant to be a peak into their beginnings, their thought processes and most importantly, their music before production. Metz, unfortunately, have not given us any sense of vulnerability or truth. All they’ve really done is released a few songs which we’ve heard before, though this time under-produced and careless, or they have given us a few unfinished demos, that in reality sound no different to their finished material. It is pointless to release music of this kind without giving it the quality of being real, untouched and refreshed. Not even the most devout fans of Metz could possibly find this album interesting or exciting, because there is simply nothing new to the songs. If anything, they’ve got worse.
We really have to dig deep, below the mess of noise and instruments at the surface, to find some kind of success in the record. “Lump Sums” has an interesting swing to it, with layered vocals fed through a type of distortion effect so as to vibrate through the song. It has the potential to become something, but it is unfortunately drowned out by loud drums, loud guitars and loud vocals. That’s all this album is really, loud.
“Dry Up” opens with something of a more melodic guitar solo, but once again, any promise is lost to the loudness of it all. “Dirty Shirt” rests its hopes on one catchy hook that sounds suspiciously similar to The Clash’s “I Fought The Law.” Even in the way Edkins sings the lyrics, he adopts the hardness and cheek of Joe Strummer, but he doesn’t come close to much else. As he screams “no, no,” one couldn’t agree more. No, no, no, no.
“Leave Me Out” is another never-ending mess, and while this may successfully translate into a frenetic, exciting energy during live shows, a record should not be made or produced to emulate that. There is no dynamic to the production of the album, and because ‘b-sides’ are meant to have an under-produced, grainy quality to them, getting their production right is a difficult, yet achievable prospect. There is no deliberation to Automat, no sensitivity. The instruments do not compliment each other, and if you’re so lucky as to understand what vocalist Alex Edkins is actually saying, the creaky, raspy nature of his voice is not celebrated.
“Automat” could actually work as a solely instrumental piece, and this could be an interesting, possibly more successful approach for the band to take with their next album. If Metz allowed the voice of Edkins to become another “instrument,” rather than a stand alone element to be understood above the music, maybe the band could create something excitingly original. The middle of this title track has a nice chord progression and is layered with beautiful synthesizers. It’s a perfect kind of instrumental indulgence which proves the bands compositional prowess. How they produce and combine their instruments is a separate issue which needs a lot of attention, but if they were to treat their music with a bit more sophistication, and try reign it in a bit, they could be onto something. Let’s hope that the future of Metz is something more than a one-dimensional excuse for a greatest hits album.