Bi-Coastal Double Concert Review: Metz

on Nov 27, 2012
A rare moment of calm during Metz's 11/20 set at the Knitting Factory in NYC
Hello and welcome to the first ever Dear Jerks Bi-Coastal Double Concert Review, and possibly the first ever bi-coastal double concert review. We're not sure. We both had the good fortune of seeing Metz play this month; first in Seattle on November 2nd (Kyle), and then in New York on November 20th (Ian). We decided to conduct this little exercise before either show had happened, so up until this point we've yet to discuss our impressions at all. This is our way of telling you, dear readers, that we apologize if this goes off the rails, or never actually finds its way on to them.

Kyle: I guess I'll start this thing off since the Seattle show was first, way back at more or less the dawn of time. Going in, I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't heard much about their live show, and Metz is one of those bands where it's hard to predict how their sound will translate from record to stage. Well, that question was answered approximately one minute into opener "Knife in the Water." Right away I was impressed with how tight and polished it was, something that was ultimately a major takeaway of the show for me. Dudes are gonna make themselves some fans on the road.

Ian: Agreed. Many focused records have been made by bands that won't or can't bring the same preciseness on stage with them. Not that long into the necessarily short set, a drunk Mosh Bro started yelling "don't give up!" at Metz in between songs. Eventually Chris Slorach, the bass player, shot back: "Have you heard our album? We're halfway done...we're playing everything." They jammed a bit extra on their last song, but otherwise they were tightly focused. Wish the same could be said for some of the gentlemen in the aforementioned mosh pit. Did your show even have, as our grandparents used to call it, 'slam dancing'? This was the first time I've seen something like that at The Knitting Factory. The impromptu mosh pit was surprisingly big, a little swirling nebula in the center-front of the floor. It started with the second song, and after they played it singer/guitarist Alex Edkins said "thanks for moving around" completely deadpan, but honest. There was even one successful stage dive during the last song.

Kyle: It's funny you mention the unexpected moshing, because out here the dudes (and it was mostly dudes) up near the front were unusually stationary, even by Seattle standards. The whole crowd was pretty subdued actually, but I attributed it mostly to the strangely early start time. Metz hit the stage at 9 as the third band on the bill, and even with a short encore I found myself at a bar with drink in hand and a belly full of pizza by 10:30. It's funny, because I came out of the show having been thoroughly entertained, but also feeling just a tiny bit disappointed that they seemed to pretty much keep their crayons inside the lines for most of the night. That's not to say that they weren't fantastic, but maybe I was just geared up for a squelching cacophony? I'm curious to know if you had any similar impressions, or whether maybe I should just stop nitpicking?

Ian: From as soon as we got to the venue, the entire front of the stage was lined with kindly fellas with quality cameras, and a few fragile-looking youngsters (it was an all-ages show). I was expecting an audience like yours. Sad to say, I've never truly spent time in a pit, but I'm down with being on the border. One of my favorite concert memories involves being slammed into by a guy three times my weight at a massively oversold Botch show at the Breakroom in Seattle (which has now been Chop Suey for a decade). The flailers at Metz weren't quite of that caliber, but I felt relieved for the band that there was a legitimately chaotic element in the crowd. It also brought all the non-moshers closer together by default. Fittingly enough, I ended up being part of the 'barrier,' and felt a bit bad for the people directly behind me. It was close quarters in that little room.

As for staying inside the lines, when they first went on and started up an intro feedback wail, Edkins spent quite a while trying to undo the tie that held back the black curtain on the side of the stage so that it would block out the other lights. He didn't give up until it finally came loose, and it did create a cool effect. They almost looked like they were in a diorama. The determination to get the curtain closed seemed to allude to a rigid creative vision. But then there are times when Edkins looks like he's about to scream and shake his way into an epileptic fit. If that's all timed and planned out, well, good on them. They sold pizza at your show?

Kyle: Dude, selling pizza at shows definitely falls into that 'best/ worst' category of ideas. Sadly, Barboza is not trying out that particular social experiment, and I had to get my pizza up the block after they cleared out the venue for some other event. Anyway!

Man, I wish we had a mosh pit in Seattle. The statuesque crowd staring at Metz tear through their set bordered on surreal. Eventually I even started to feel bad for the band. It must be tough to be putting everything out there and to get so little feedback. Some people were noticeably more into opener Survival Knife, and I suspect that maybe much of the crowd was there to see them and then stuck around for Metz? I dunno. I to have to say that Survival Knife did absolutely kill it. Featuring founding members of Unwound Brandt Sandeno and Justin Trosper, I expected to see a set of epic, sprawling, post-hardcore. Nope. Instead, it was as if these dudes decided that the kids had royally messed up emo (fact) and decided to show them how it should have been done. I'm definitely looking forward to their debut. You mentioned on Twitter that you had a pretty good opener experience in NY as well?

Ian: You mean emo from the emocore era, like DC/SoCal in the late-80's/early-90's? Yeah, I can hear that. I can also hear, of course, early Unwound in there as well, which is an incredibly welcome sound. They haven't played NYC yet (as far as I know), but I've spent some quality time with what's floating around Youtube and such. Those guys have needed to get back to making this kind of music for a long time; thankfully, they are now.

But, yes: Brooklyn's Yvette played second, before Metz, and made a seriously impressive racket for being two seemingly well-mannered guys of average build. Half of the time it felt like they might be improvising, but the other half of the time it was clear that they weren't, and that's what made the parts where it felt like they might be improvising all the more impressive. Unless, y'know, they really were just messing around, in which case it still sounded cool. Heretofore unbeknownst to me, they've been around for a bit, and have this here bandcamp. For what it's worth, they are playing Living Bread in Bushwick this Friday. Catch this new part of the rich lineage of Northeast noise duos like Lightning Bolt and Mouthus before they play ATP, or something.

Metz are now in one of the most exciting band career phases to watch, as opposed to the inevitable fat years or the greying-age acoustic tour. They've been honing their set for some time, the debut document is finally out of the gates, they have a well endowed label behind them, critical momentum, and a live show that should be making converts by the dozens and turning out bigger audiences with each go-around they make. Where do you think they go from here?

Kyle: Yeah, Metz seem to have a lot working for them right now. I'm sure they'll be playing a much bigger room next time they roll through Seattle, that's for sure. What's a bit harder (and exciting) to guess is where their sound will go from here. They are one of those rare young bands that seems to have a fairly fully realized sound, and the chops to execute it on stage as well as on record. The question for them (and contemporaries like Cloud Nothings) is: will they be content to mine the same territory for a while longer, or will they begin distancing themselves from their 90s indie rock reference points? I don't think there's a right answer to that question myself, so I'll be eagerly awaiting whatever comes next.

Ian: I was hoping you were going to say "make a rock opera about the life of David Yow."

Dan Snaith, Predictor of Major Weather Events

on Nov 24, 2012
What do Nostradamus and this album have in common?

It has recently come to our attention that Dan Snaith, the man behind Caribou (who will always kinda still be Manitoba in our hearts), may not just be a brilliant composer and multi-instrumentalist. He may, in fact, be clairvoyant.

Here is the track list for Caribou's Andorra, which in 2008 won the Polaris Music Prize, an award that is kind of like a Grammy, but records with titles like He Poos Clouds can win it. It is also awarded by polar bears. Notice anything interesting?
No joke: "Irene" and "Sandy." Two of these songs share their names with the two hurricanes that hit the Northeast and New York City in the past two years.

Because we firmly believe that correlation does imply causation, we are going to start stockpiling canned goods for 2013's Hurricane Desiree. Or Hurricane Niobe. Or a winter storm named Eli, because they are giving those things dude names now. Snaith has warned you. We'll also be spending the rest of the weekend going over Up in Flames for missed clues about the 2008 financial crisis.

Dan Snaith, Namer of Storms, emitting psychic vibrations into the universe.

Stuff That We Are Thankful For: 2012 Edition (there have been no other editions)

on Nov 22, 2012
Brought to you by this drunk turkey


1)  "No. 1 Against the Rush" by Liars

Amongst internet streams, endless playlists, and shuffle modes, songs often burn bright and then fade quickly in my memory. Every once in a while though, one comes along that just sticks. Enter "No. 1 Against the Rush," from Liars' latest record WIXIW. Liars plus ominous synths and sweet chopped up samples? Please and thank you.

2)  Maserati

God bless you Maserati. With Maserati VII, you could have chosen to go in one of many different directions after tragically losing drummer Jerry Fuchs. Instead, you chose to plow on full steam ahead ahead in your quest to push the boat-chase-soundtrack envelope to its absolute limits. There's something comforting in the knowledge, no matter what else is going on in the world, that you're out there somewhere opening up the throttle as far as she'll go.

3)  99% Invisible

I'm playing it fast and loose with the them here, but the self-described "Tiny Radio Show About Design" by Roman Mars is one of the very best radio shows/podcasts out there period and I just have to share. Even if you're not into design per-se, the beautiful stories, flawless production, and refreshing brevity add up to a consistently great listen. There are a lot of great podcasts out there right now that I absolutely love, but for me, 99% Invisible is as close to perfect as they get.


1)  Godspeed You! Black Emperor released their first new album in ten years

Kind of goes without saying, since Dear Jerks essentially began as a way for us to mess ourselves about Allelujah! in a public but semi-anonymous forum. But, still: uuunnnhhh.

2)  Phil Elverum


While most musicians won't even release one of the best albums of the year this year, Phil Elverum, the one-man band that is Mount Eerie, released two of them. This sonic alchemist has put Anacortes, WA, back on the map in a way not seen since The Revolutionary Hydra released "Anacortes Type Writer" on their split 7" with Death Cab For Cutie way back when. And that, if only by definition, is saying something.

3)  Regents' Antietam After Party

Frodus Lives! Twenty-six frenetic minutes from a group of guys culled from a sizeable number of the last decade's post-hardcore luminaries. "Start to Beginning" is barely a minute, and the first half of that minute is brought to you by the Hardcore Drum Corps. Don't worry, herein also dwells a Hardcore Back-Up Choir, and an Aramaic chant. The Homeland-meets-falconry cover art is a nice touch.  

4)  That day back in September when Phil Collins' ...Hits was on sale for $1 on Amazon

Not to pack this list with dudes named Phil, but that day was super sweet. Does ...Hits have "Another Day In Paradise" on it? Well, it ain't called ...Hits because it doesn't have "Another Day In Paradise" on it, that's for certain.

Top 13 Albums With Disembodied Arms On The Cover

on Nov 14, 2012

When looking back on the long, gangly history of rock albums that have disembodied arms for their cover art, one can't help but also wistfully reflect on the lost opportunities; the chances for loose-limbed legend that swung and missed. There was Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, for one. Even more egregious, consider the case of Seattle-based post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes. Sure, there's a floating hand on Oxeneers, but that hand clearly belongs to, and is overshadowed by, the head underneath it...and besides, that's not even the real point. The point is: are two big-ass snakes for arms really all that hard to draw??! 

#13.   Sister Psychic - Catch and Release

Seriously dudes, you all had to get in the same room at least every once in a while to practice, right? And, unless you did so begrudgingly in complete silence, you probably all talked to each other? Exchanging words and ideas? Yet, somehow, we the public are all supposed to buy the idea that not a single one of you, at any point, suggested "oh man, a couple of gnarly snakes for arms rocking out on a flaming guitar, or maybe choking a leprechaun, would be a kick-ass record cover." What the hell were you doing that whole time then?!

#12.   Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Wanna see how easy it is? Just look at Godspeed. Godspeed have five times as many members as These Arms Are Snakes, and yet when it comes time for them to all sit cross-legged around the campfire and pass the talking stick counterclockwise, it happens like this: "What's the album called again? Oh, okay, how about we just draw that on a piece of cardboard then?" Two dozen "aye's" later: ART.

#11.   Antlers - Hospice

Of course, disembodied hands (sometimes with wrists, as in this particular instance) can also be used in less literally interpretive ways. Here, a deceptively simple drawing is used to illustrate what is surely one of the most painful experiences a human being could ever bear in this world. Cheers, Antlers. 

#10.   Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica

Here's a happier meeting of two hands, perhaps meant to show the moon and Antarctica coming to an agreement, one that probably has to do with conspiring against the tides, or gravity. It's a shame that the Mouse dropped this prog-tastic original cover for the 2004 reissue, but they could have done worse...

#9.   Hole - Ask For It  EP

...A LOT WORSE. Courtney Love was never exactly known for tact, but holy balls. Who the eff at the record label green-lighted this s#@t?!  I'm sorry, but do you know who didn't "ask for it"? The fourteen-year-old me who stumbled on this in the racks at Tower Records way back when and couldn't scrub the image out of his head forever.  

#8.   Matt Sweeney + Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Superwolf

Anyway, moving on...well well, what do we have here? Now here's an arm that looks like a snake! Better yet, it looks like an evil, gnarly snake, right down to the bit of blood -- or venom, totally up to interpretation -- dripping from its mouth. Perhaps because it just devoured the superwolf? That would explain why the superwolf doesn't make what would otherwise be a no-brainer appearance on this album cover. 

#7.   Bettie Serveert - Lamprey

Sure, this kinda looks like a lamprey, in that way that all human arms look like certain kinds of coastal and fresh water eels, but what it truly looks like is the arm snake from Superwolf laying down to take a nap, because it is tired from devouring the superwolf. 

#6.   Blouse - Blouse

Logic then follows that this would be a picture of that exhausted arm snake, fast asleep on its plush, cozy snake bed. Judging by the image, one might think this is a teenage girl arm snake without a job who has time to nap during the day; but that would be sexist, and ageist.

#5.   Spiritualized - Amazing Grace

However, if it were though, that might make this her hairy older brother arm snake. Look at their faces, the familial resemblance is striking.

#4.  Low - Trust

Which would then make this her creepy uncle.

#3.   Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Untogether

If these arms were snakes, they would be Water Moccasins. No question about it.  

#2.   Spoon - Kill the Moonlight

And if these arms were snakes, they would be those gnarly Amazonian snakes that hang from trees, like Kaa from "The Jungle Book." 

But enough about how These Arms Are Snakes let the entire world down. There can be only one true winner here, and that is...

#1.   Iggy Pop - The Idiot

If you think that just because those arms are technically attached to Iggy Pop, that means that they aren't disembodied, you need to read up on your Iggy Pop. Besides, look at them: they are hypnotically distracting. The fact that they can lure the eyes away from the rest of Iggy Pop in the way that they do is a testament to the power they wield on their own. 

Honorable Mention:   Islands - Arm's Way

There's far, far too much nonsense going on in this drawing overall, but Islands, like Godspeed, clearly remembered the name of their own record. Unlike, say, Band of Horses, whose album Infinite Arms, ironically, has infinitely less arms on its cover than this one does. 

Slightly Less Honorable Mention:   Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring

The peasant farmers from Cardiff got the visual aesthetic right, and an extra point for blood. But, well, legs.  


on Nov 1, 2012

Red Stars Theory had impeccable taste. They named a song after one of the best lines from Denis Johnson’s story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.” They released a John Coltrane cover as a single. They were a quintessential Pacific Northwest entity; formed and led by One Foot in the Grave cover co-star James Bertram of the increasingly legendary Lync, they shared members with Modest Mouse (Jeremiah Green), 764-Hero (Bertram), and others. They put out records on labels with cultural cache, such as Chicago's untouchable Touch and Go Records (RIP). But they didn't put out too many of them: not counting comp tracks and any other strays, their physical output was two full-length albums, two 10-inches, and three 7-inches. (Their first 10-inch and 7-inch were later combined and repackaged.)

Front cover of "Slow Curve"/"Castle Rock"
A lot about Red Stars Theory can be read in those mere three 7-inches. The first, "Slow Curve"/"Castle Rock," (or call it Linguaphone, per the cover art) holds the answer to how James Bertram transitioned from the banging lo-fi chaos of Lync to making exquisite nap time indie rock. "Slow Curve" and "Castle Rock" are loosely managed bursts, both under three minutes long, that sound a little less all over the room than Lync, but not by much. True, there were quiet-loud parts throughout the soon-to-come But Sleep Came Slowly, but the tumult there was buffered by lulling gentle swells. Linguaphone made sense contextually at the time of its release, though soon became increasingly out of place in their catalog, settling into the role of a misleading first stab, though it remains the key to their origins.

Front cover of "Tremely"/"Rustin"
In the middle of the trio sits "Tremely"/"Rustin", recorded on Valentine's Day and the day after in 1999, and released as part of the literal-minded and short-lived Paper Bag Series later that year. It is unclear if side A is meant to be an abbreviated form of the word "extremely," but it is not a real word itself. Neither is 'rustin', but Ruston is a tiny municipality on the edge of Tacoma, Washington. Word issues and all, "Tremely"/"Rustin" is another outlier. About as close to "psych rock" as they got, it is an adventurous push for the band, uptempo and aggressive, but in a much different way than Linguaphone. A high spaced-out guitar line floats above a kick-heavy echoing beat. The feeling of the song suggests wide open space, not intimacy. Conversely, "Rustin" is built out of hallmark RST components. It is the band doing what they do best; letting Seth Warren steal half of the show.

Though not technically a founding member, much of the heart of Red Stars Theory was violinist Seth Warren, who has gone on to play with many others. "Rustin" is as gorgeous an example of his work as any, but "exhibit A" might be “I Thought About You" from But Sleep Came Slowly. It turns the spotlight on Warren and each longing note that he pulls out, an extended solo that drifts along in smoky tranquility as the rest of the band lays a tidy instrumental bed underneath. Bertram finally comes in after four minutes, whispering “I thoouught about you/again today” which stirs the band into briefly getting rougher with their instruments before settling back down to finish. Warren’s warm loneliness is the highlight of most every RST song he touched, which says a lot, given the talents of everyone else in that group.

Back of "Tremely"/"Rustin"
"Rustin" is also notable for guitarist Tony Palmasani's rare and able appearance on lead vocals. In the credits, he's named "Tonie", unlike anywhere else. Given that, and the other aforementioned language issues with this record, it is interesting that the 7-inch before it had "language courses" written on the cover. That point leads to a very curious thematic consistency between these two 7-inches: packaging. The front of Linguaphone was an image of a picture and label attached to a brown paper folder with torn bits of masking tape. Intentionally or not, the Paper Bag Series took that a step further and brought those two materials to life, putting the record in a plain cardboard sleeve, wrapping it in plain brown grocery bag paper, stamping simple labels on both sides, and then sealing it all up with wide strips of masking tape. By virtue of its very design, this connection was ephemeral; as soon as you unwrapped "Tremely"/"Rustin," the similarity was lost - unless you saved the wrapping and taped it back up every time.

Front cover of "Naima"
Not too long after the release of their second long player, Life in a Bubble Can Be Beautiful, and the shows they played in support of it, Red Stars Theory sadly began to wind down record-wise with the “Naima” 7-inch and the final self-titled EP with the cartoon sheep on the cover, reprising their trademark sleep theme one last time. With everyone in RST being in at least one other band, their fading out wasn’t surprising. Technically the EP was the last official release, but -- comprised as it was of two remixes, a re-recording of a Life track, and one new tune -- it felt like a stop-gap on the way to something else. "Naima," on the other hand, is a more fitting drowsy denouement; the sound of a single falling feather slowly drifting ground-ward. Stepping up to Coltrane is daunting, and the violin naturally cuts a more stately presence than saxophone, but Warren's interpretation is true to form. As much as Life followed a diminishing energy from its first to last song, the three 7-inches, listened to in order, starkly illustrate how they calmed down over their entire lifespan. They are surprisingly appropriate mile markers. (They should also, at this point, be lost treasures that were snatched up long ago, but the last two are still well available for the same four dollars they were last decade. Go figure.)