Alex Edkins’ primary band, Metz, has been gradually inching toward greater accessibility over the past decade. They never necessarily needed pop melodies, as the group’s muscular post-hardcore punch is effective enough a sound without the need for bells, whistles or any regard for subtlety. There’s a hell of a lot you can do with loud guitars and a bass tone engineered for demolition, and Metz have proven as much throughout their four full-length albums, plus various singles and outtakes.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the ability to write a catchy pop song isn’t one of the tools in Edkins’ arsenal, even if heavy bouts of noise rock aren’t always the avenue to put that to use. This is where Weird Nightmare comes in. Edkins’ janglier, confectionery new project outside of Metz, Weird Nightmare is more Hot Snakes than Drive Like Jehu, more Sugar than Hüsker Dü. On the 10 tracks that comprise the project’s self-titled Sub Pop debut, Edkins revels in magnetic hooks and brighter, sunny melodies, exploring explicitly an aspect of his songwriting that had previously been mostly implicit.
The brief pulse of a drum machine that kicks off opening track “Searching For You” is a fake-out, and what fills the space in its absence is more organic and alive. Garage rock by any other name, “Searching For You” is testament to the inability of loud, reckless rock ‘n’ roll music ever losing its appeal, but more importantly that, when done particularly well, can be immensely satisfying. From there, Edkins opts for a sludgier path with “Nibs,” takes a detour through shoegaze via Teenage Fanclub on “Lusitania,” duets with Bully’s Alicia Bognanno on the gloriously grungy standout “Wrecked,” and on “Sunday Driver,” soars via anthemic slow burn.
It’s not as if Edkins has shed his tendency toward playing loud, urgent rock music—that’s ultimately what Weird Nightmare is, after all. But there’s a brightness to these songs, a warm and summery extroverted charm that sates an itch that raw, full-throated pummel just can’t scratch (and, well, vice versa). These aren’t just pop songs, they’re really good pop songs, the kind of infectious gems that mixtape real estate is reserved for and which remind you of road trips and wasted summer days. I can’t imagine wearing this one out, but I look forward to trying.
Label: Sub Pop
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.