What Automat shows off that most other rarity sanctuaries don’t is room for expansion.
The punks and nerds sure look a lot alike. The 2010s was a bookish time for the underground, with grandiose tales of the Civil War (Titus Andronicus) deep psychoanalysis of anxiety (Jeff Rosenstock) and art-house screeds on feminism (Savages) the wordy, guiding lights. Call it Milo gets his post-doc. Metz couldn’t have found a better class to graduate with. The Canadian trio attacked their work with a steely-eyed determination that bordered on the obsessive. Though not as Joycean as fellow northerners Fucked Up, they were meticulous students. Born in 2008, they didn’t release their debut until 2012. That whole time they were studying their craft, putting in those vaunted 10,000 hours.
With that sort of fastidiousness, it’s a surprise they had any cast-offs to speak of. Each of their three full lengths seemed to be born of an intense maelstrom of perfectionism. Automat, on paper, is here to tide us over until the next Metz barnburner. But, instead, it stands up as a throttling joy unto itself.
The tradeoff of Automat is the same from any great B-side compendium: absolute rippers at the cost of cohesion. One of Metz’s most underrated traits was molding visceral albums that peaked and shattered at just the right points for maximum tension. Though Automat was clearly carefully collected, these tracks were recorded over a period of 10 years. It leaves the flow a tad discombobulated.
Thankfully, the most shocking aspect of Automat is how none of these songs appeared on proper albums. The opening screech of “Soft Whiteout” brings enough 90s-alt-rock punch with the squawking guitars that II would have happily brought it in. Same goes for the spacious “Dry Up” which sounds like it was recorded in one of the Saw warehouses. The lead single (do b-side albums have singles?) “Pure Auto” is another gleeful bit of violence and a quick reminder that Metz’s self-titled debut was one of the most gloriously destructive albums of the decade.
What Automat shows off that most other rarity sanctuaries don’t is room for expansion. Another b-side collection might have a goof or two in another genre, Automat hints at the possibility of a new chapter That mostly comes in the form of “Ripped on the Fence,” the best song here and easily in the top 5 of Metz’s career. The careening opening is in form with most of their work, but the sludgy, woozy verses could have come from Helmet. And the ugly waltz that propels the song is a fond reminder of WHORES.’s similarly incendiary ¾ work “I AM AN AMATEUR AT EVERYTHING.” When the song eventually dissolves into a creepy morass of vocal harmonies, it’s earned its burned out ending. And Metz, who already deserve to be playing stadiums, find themselves in the Garden, a slew of new songs like closer “Eraser” roar out like the most fucked-up anthems possible. It makes sense: only some truly dedicated nerd would go this hard on an extra-credit assignment.