With the release of their first three albums, the Toronto-based punk trio and JOVM mainstays METZ developed a reputation for thriving on an abrasive restlessness. However, before they set to work on their fourth and latest album, last year’s Atlas Vending, the Canadian punk rockers — Alex Edkins (guitar, vocals). Chris Slorach (bass) and Hayden Menzies (drums) — set a goal for themselves and the album: they intended to make a much more patient and honest album, an album that invited repeated listens rather than a few exhilarating, most-pit friendly bludgeonings.
Co-produced by Uniform’s Ben Greenberg and mastered by Seth Manchester at Pawtucket’s Machines with Magnets, Atlas Vending sees the band attempting to craft music for the long haul, and with the hopes that their work could serve as a constant, as they — and of course, the listener — navigated through life’s trails and tribulations. The end result is an album’s worth of material that retains the massive sound that has won them attention and hearts across the world, but while arguably being among their most articulate, earnest and dynamic of their catalog and careers.
Thematically, the album covers disparate yet very adult themes: paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia and the restless urge to just say “Fuck this!” and leave it all behind. Interestingly enough, much like its immediate predecessor, Atlas Vending offers a snapshot of the modern condition as the band sees it; but unlike any of their previously released work, the album’s 10 songs were specifically written to form a musical and narrative arc with the album’s songs and sequencing following a cradle-to-grave trajectory.
As a result of the album’s cradle-to-grave narrative arc, the album’s material runs through a gamut of moods and emotional states, starting off with the most rudimentary and simplistic sensations of childhood, all the way to the increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys of adulthood. There’s also a bit of subtext to the proceedings: getting older in an industry seemingly suspended in perpetual youth. “Change is inevitable if you’re lucky,” METZ’s Alex Eadkins says of the band’s fourth album Atlas Vending. “Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.”
Over the course of last year, I wrote about six off the album’s released singles:
Album closing track “A Boat to Drown In,” which may be the most expansive and oceanic tracks of their entire catalog.
“Hail Taxi,” an explosive and deceptively prototypical METZ track that’s centered a narrator, who desperately attempts to reconcile who they once were with what they’ve become.
“Blind Industrial Park,” a rapturous and euphoric ripper that’s an ode to the naivete of youth and the blissful freedom of being unburdened by the world surrounding you.
“Parasite,” a frenetic and pummeling ripper that they filmed at The Opera House in Toronto.
“Pulse,” a furious roar, full of the anxious and uncertain dread that was familiar to daily life during the Trump Administration.
“Framed by the Comet’s Tail,” Atlas Vending’s most punk-like song, centered around the bitter recrimination and heartache of betrayal and the desperate desire to just say “Fuck all of this!” and start over.
The JOVM mainstays closed out 2020 with an explosive live session for KEXP that they recorded at Palace Sound, which features a handful of the album’s singles performed live. KEXP recently released the video — and it makes me miss live shows immensely. I suspect it’ll make you miss live shows, too.