[Every month, Here to Hear offers a brief look at DIY scenes around the world. This month: Metz, France]
Toronto’s noisy, Mudhoney-worshipping outfit METZ likely didn’t realize the full significance of the name they chose, but residents of the Northeast French town that shares it certainly do.
Metz is unlike Paris, Lyon, Nice or Strasbourg. The town is one of the largest in the Alsace-Lorraine territory, an area that has changed ownership, government and religion more than most European cities, flip-flopping between German and French identities. The result is an anxious but proud town. The rallying cry of the French Revolution — Liberté, égalité, fraternité — is embossed everywhere, on office buildings and churches throughout the town.
But the equally plentiful anarchist graffiti — and young people who create it — argue otherwise. In the same way a history of war can shape geography, it can also shape art and music. For Metz’s underground music scene, the pressure of that history sparks rebellion. Bands like the Anals, Plastobetton and the Dreams — many of which have disbanded, some of which have no online presence — define Metz’s squalor-punk sound, a style born of both frustration and motivation. Often compared to the repetitive noise of Swedish punk bands like Brainbombs or Totalitär, squalor punk mirrors the smut and ferocity of those bands, but is dronier and more tactile. Staples like “Danse Baden Powell” are the product of a hardcore band raised on Suicide. Of all these bands, the most consequential is A.H. Kraken.
The band is surprisingly apolitical. Kraken has been compared to similar-sounding Providence bands, like Arab on Radar, but they place emphasis on texture over volume. There’s a sense of humor to their musical inefficiency — it’s not punk if not everyone can play it — as well as their lyrics; the best song title in their repertoire “Kevin Costner Est Un Acteur Américain.” Their two chord songs shock and hypnotize.
Outside the shadows is the Feeling of Love, the odd man out in a town with a very aggressive underground. The name connotes the softness of indie pop, but frontman Guillaume Marietta chose it for its malleability, hoping it would allow the listener to interpret it any way they wanted. He also hoped it would draw in like-minded souls — Marietta was lonely, and felt that with an inviting name, he could start a band.
Much like in the U.S., Marietta started his band by putting out cassettes and, later, zines with keyboardist Sebastien Joly in the hopes of establishing a community. It’s still a work in progress. They might not be a punk band, but they share the ethos. None of the bars would allow the band to play, so their first shows — in true DIY fashion — happened outside the city, under a bridge, under the Autobahn. Once again, the music, and the people of this city were displaced, and thriving.