We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Green enough to pull brave moves and un-self-conscious enough to make them all swing like mad, the teens in D.C.’s Meta-Matics created some truly gushworthy sounds during their all-too-brief tenure. Coming together in the summer of 1994, the quartet spent the next year and a half cribbing like crazy from fractured, early-’80s No Wave. But unlike most folks making gringofied funk then and now, the Meta-Matics were anything but narrow-minded about influence. Take, for example, “Thanks to Capitalism Pt. 1”: Amid Aaron Brenner’s discordant guitar stabs, Franke Vogl’s scrappy bass lines, and Malcolm McDuffie’s big-top percussion barrage, tiers of horns emerge out of nowhere to deliver a tight klezmer counterpoint. Trumpet and clarinet then build as Chuck Bettis sings, “Everyone should steal necessities/No one should pay for them because they should be free.” Basically, the Meta-Matics treated No Wave like a playground, tossing in Billie Holiday, David Bowie, and Sex Pistols quotations in the first few songs of the new Complete Discography alone. More important, though, they demonstrated a gift for sounding progressive even as they rocked the simplest of concepts. The instrumental “Police & Fleas” scores with a single riff, beginning quietly with budget-priced synth drums before exploding into a monolithic Sabbath-meets-Miles rump-shaker. “John Brown for Example” takes the Velvet Underground route, crafting a sinister groove out of a rudimentary guitar drone and floor-tom-heavy drumming. And, in one of the disc’s most direct and effective moves, “Absence of Rhythm” pairs a lonely repeated note with Bettis’ hippie mantra, “We should be holding hands.” Don’t be fooled by that sentiment, though: These were hardcore kids at heart. “Are We There Yet?” emerges slowly, as creepy rockabilly, before slaying your eardrums with meltdown guitars, needles-in-the-red screaming, and dog-paddle drumming, and “Evangelist” takes a crusty view of religion, treating the collection plate with Crasslike disdain: “This is a hold-up/Give me your money/Give me all you got/I got what you believe in.” Even years after its original release, it still sounds just about as punk as punk gets. —Brent Burton