Here’s the thing about being a white MC:
Everything you ever do will already be working in the confines of a pre-established system, a set of rules always working against you and toward a moment where you’re standing in your underwear hawking high end fashion, or you’ve grown dreads and gone metal. But Brooklyn’s Metermaids, MCs Swell and Sentence, have done something about that. Their latest EP, Smash Smash Bang, best represents who they are and the aim of their sound. At the same time that they’ve bucked all notions and stereotypes, they’ve also readily embraced their outcast status.
Itd be unfair to call these guys a rap-rock group. Theyre a rap group with rock tendencies. Musically, its all crunchy, rhythmic guitars and plenty of banging drums that play out like some countrified blues rock, ala a less-garage-rock-enthusiast version of the White Stripes. Attitude wise, theyre a couple of white guys who confront listeners with the energy of frat boys, but mixed with the depth and sincerity of a couple of street poets. Shades Off best demonstrates the groups true real wheel: A massive party track complete with some rocking piano line straight out of the coolest gospel choir ever, that smuggles in a menacing guitar with the consistency of a rumbling semi-truck. But the condemnation of the greed of our culture, especially with the economic downturn, and the message of being happy with what you’ve got says a lot about their moral standings and their overall musical sensibilities. It also harks back to a time in rap where social awareness was crucial.
Ghosts In The Radio truly captures their full speed ahead energy, with a big old guitar sound that sounds like old country and western or rockabilly distorted to oblivion, while the keys play like a revivalist dance party. Its a celebration of the energy you feel about giving up on bad feelings and even worse relationships. The big explosion of organ keys and screaming and fuzzy radio burnout toward the end only make you feel glad they got away. Planes Down channels that mischievous energy into a tune about the end of one world, a conclusion that their violence and abandonment is happily facilitating, and the frantic hope for something new that lies afterward.
Blackout Baby captures the feeling of being angry and confused and completely unimportant, and the beauty of accepting that and living life as a perpetually enraged zero. Their songs are filled with lyrical constructs like “I hear the music clearly, I taste the nicotine/I feel the buildings close in, I see the city scream/I hear you talk about me, I see your finger shake/I know the pain inside you, I hear the glasses break/I don’t regret a second, there’s honey in my veins.” They use their home of Brooklyn as a representation of the duality of life and their kind of living (“Isn’t Brooklyn pretty?/The way she holds your fingers to the flames” and “Isn’t Brooklyn ugly?/How she holds your face in your mistakes.”) Matchbooks is the least exciting and dynamic; a lonely piano and some spoken word turns into tribal hand claps and chanting. The keys take a hopeful turn, taking on more of a sound like a baptism by streetlight or a religious awakening in the cold night of Brooklyn. Its a much more hopeful theme (“And the last thoughts I have are the pretty ones/The last split second I’m awake/And I’ve never been afraid and the dark don’t scare me/’Cause some things you can never take away”) than the other tracks without losing some of that underdog mentality.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the emotional allure of the duo. So many bands have attempted to make music that exudes angst and hopeful disgust regarding the world they live in. Metermaids readily do it without making concessions lyrically or in the way in which they present the entire package. Each song resonates with a level of authenticity, created in a frame where both confusion and anger have just as much power and relevancy as the promise of tomorrow. But they haven’t forgotten the importance of sonics, creating a hybrid noise that portrays the fury of rock and the intensity of any street rap beat, with plenty of rhythm and groove to spare. For those white MCs of the world, the future just got a little brighter.