Metro Expo – Metro Expo 2 – Album Review
I tend to put a lot of automatic faith in longevity, even though it’s truly one of the rarest aspects of any when it comes to the independent music-scene. While there’s nary a day that goes by here where I’m not removing an old inactive link from an artist or band that thought it was gonna be a great idea to change their name halfway into their third album, or saying goodbye to another that made it to their debut and then suddenly called it quits – the reality on this side of the screen is that…well…not too many of ya end up going the distance for a twenty-year stretch without some major time off in the middle somewhere. Or some sort of deviation from the path you were on, to make a break for all that life stuff happening while you’re just trying to get a few tunes recorded. Or disappearing altogether.
That being said, like I was tellin’ ya – I naturally side with longevity. I assume that, if you’ve made one record or recorded one song, that you’re gonna one day make another. No one really tells ya that when you start this whole music-thing out…but pssssssssst…come in close, lemme tell ya a secret we all know: it’s actually pretty damn addictive. Perhaps it’s only once you’ve managed to rival the amount of grey I have in my beard now that you end up with a very calm perspective on it all. Not only is it much more natural for a musician to keep going somehow once they’ve started & the passions have been ignited, but I suppose after a certain amount of time spent dedicated to listening to tunes from all over the world and staying connected to the scene year-after-year for as long as I’m still capable of remembering back to in my youth, you kinda learn quickly who’s gonna stick with it, and who doesn’t have that gear.
What I’m really getting at is, time doesn’t scare me at all when it comes to the right artists & bands. When you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that someone has been bitten hard by the music bug, you know that it’s just a matter of time until you see or hear from them again, that’s all there is to it. I could have told ya with certainty that we’d run into Metro Expo at some point in the future after listening to the debut album back in 2015 based on everything I heard in the creativity & imagination that lined the songs on that record. Though I wasn’t expecting confirmation of Metro Expo 2 following Metro Expo 1 and somewhat assumed it was implied through the title of the original & the creativity I’d experienced – it actually came in the form of a message from the Wizard Of Oz himself, Mr. Fred Marcoty, the man behind the music. In 2016, he confirmed that Metro Expo 2 was indeed, on the way.
And you know something? It’s five years later, and there’s not a day in between that I’ve doubted him.
Though that’s been more than enough time, and I’m sure Fred’s at the very least as stoked to get this album out just as much as I would be to hear it, the man sure ain’t in any rush even now, giving ya the world’s longest recorded fade-in to the beginning of “The Mountain” to start up Metro Expo 2. Alright, alright…I’m exaggerating a little bit just to have some fun here – it’s long, but it’s not filler by any stretch – and within a minute & ten seconds, you’re already well on your way to one seriously vibrant first cut to be found on Metro Expo’s new record. No joke here though folks – the structure, execution, and songwriting…is genuinely staggering when it comes to examining the results through these speakers surrounding me. The rhythmic hooks in the guitars alone are well worth the price of admission – you add in the spectacularly warm synth glow that shows up, or the French horns via Oliver Collinet’s first guest appearance, or the all-out bold performance that Marcoty gives you on the microphone, and you’ve already doubled or tripled the investment you’ve made in the value of a record like this one. All of these great things – and yet, if you were to ask me what my #1 most favorite part of “The Mountain” would be…I’d actually tell ya it’s the lyricism to be found here – what a trip! That’s definitely not to take a single thing away from anything you’ll hear – I’ve already pointed out several impressive highlights, and they all help this first impression make the impact it does – but when you hear the uniqueness of Fred’s words and how that ends up having an effect on how much you’re listening to this record overall, the man deserves major bonus points and credit for his cleverness. Not that I’d want you to all start scouring through the 2000+ reviews I’ve written here at sleepingbagstudios, but go ahead and poke open a random set of five – you’ll see that I rarely make too many comments on lyricism at all to begin with, and even less when it would come to an opening track. “The Mountain” makes an instant impression because the uniqueness you’re craving is on display in exquisite doses from every angle; the balance of strengths is impeccable; and yes dear readers, dear friends, that’s including the words, 100%.
A consistent feature of quality in the music of Metro Expo, I was just as excited by what Fred came up with for “Merry-go Round,” which would be right up there with the best of the best when it comes to the twisted tunes you’ll find in this world of ours. Marcoty proves to be a true master of the unexpected in how he’s written these songs on Metro Expo 2…quite often he’ll give you a sound or style that you wouldn’t typically associate with the lyrics or sentiment you find come with’em, and it makes for a fantastic listen that’s very much unlike any other. “Merry-go Round” is pretty much the only song I’d ever need to point you towards to examine and understand what I’m talking about here – from this one experience, you’d get everything I’m claiming here. The celebratory, spectacular side-show sound of this song sounds like it’s a wild party, if not a full-on extravaganza of some kind – and then, if you’re listening to the words…I mean…good lord…Fred had me smiling from ear to ear as he sang this one. It’s impossible for me to explain it all without you just hearing it – so listen up – but essentially, the point I’m desperately trying to make here, is that the guy is penning pure genius to pair with the brilliant music he’s making as well. Do I profess to know exactly what he’s on about here? Hell no! I can barely tie my own shoes, don’t expect me to keep up with THIS guy – he’s on a level well-beyond me. Like, to me, “Merry-go Round” is anything BUT merry except for the SOUND of the song itself – other than that, if I’m hearing this correctly…well…this is freakin’ GRIM is it not? It’s either like, Frankenstein’s monster’s first day out to the fair…or like, it could be even written from the perspective of a kidnapper…it could be a continuation of the trip Marcoty began on “The Mountain” – but no matter what conclusion you come to, you’ll find that there’s such a masterfully twisted grip on lyricism throughout “Merry-go Round” that hits the mark dead-on, no matter what your interpretation might be. Go ahead and apply any of the three scenarios I just outlined, and you’ll see they could all arguably fit in some way – and you’ll likely have your own possibilities for what a song like this could be about as well! The value of interpretive lyricism is always understated when it comes to music in general – but when you combine that with potentially polarizing themes that’ll generate discussion & make people THINK too? Sign me up, tyvm.
A highlight example of the effect of such impressive & well-rounded execution from performance to production, is how it can pull you into a moment in time you might not normally be as jazzed about, were it to come from another band or artist other than Metro Expo – which is how I felt about “Old Men Sleeping” when it came right down to it. I’m tellin’ ya firsthand folks, therein lies the magic. My natural instincts tell me to rebel against a song that’s borrowing so much from the history of music on-forward and not really doing as much to highlight the creativity that so often runs rampant throughout Metro Expo’s imaginative tunes – but how on earth is anyone supposed to complain about this at all? While the sound itself might not be as surprising on a structural level as the majority of the others, the quality of the execution, from every instrument, note, and tone from the vocals and music, is beyond exceptional, and absolutely outstanding in all the right ways. And if that doesn’t end up pullin’ ya right on board like it did for me, I’d be seriously surprised. YES – “Old Men Sleeping” might feel like & sound like something you’ve experienced somewhere along the way at some point in time – but even IF that was truly the case (which it’s not, it’s an original y’all), you’ve never heard it THIS well done. Every time this tune came on, I just kind of marveled at how much I ended up enjoying myself in listening to “Old Men Sleeping” & how much I felt like Fred Marcoty beat the odds with this quaint lil’ Metro Expo tune.
Genius. GENIUS! The beginning of “Anhedonia” and the way the guitars in this tune are recorded, muted, and subdued at their most epic, only to be unleashed into a completely different vibe altogether – this is one of those songs that should have every musician out there listening on the edge of their seat. Rowan comes in to add in a fantastic flute solo into the mix as well – but let’s be plenty real here, Fred already had this track jammin’ in all the right ways beforehand, making masterful transitions between completely different realms of sound & style, and winning the war for your attention by creating songs that’ll capture your interest without question & quickly go on to captivate your entire mind. I have had my bouts with depression, even when it comes to listening to music or doing the job I love like so many of you out there can relate to – but it’s finding the joy of experiencing a cut like this that I believe confirms I don’t have diagnosable “Anhedonia,” thankfully. Y’all know I love to learn whilst I listen over here – I didn’t even know this word before I started this review today – and apparently, according to its definition, it somewhat refers to being devoid of the capacity to feel happiness where it’s naturally expected to be found, or where you used to be able to reliably find it beforehand. Either way, it’s a somewhat terrifying concept to have built around…at least from my own personal perspective…I’d have a hard time with having “Anhedonia” I think, after loosely learning what I have about it. Listening to “Anhedonia” is a completely different story – I’d listen to this song every day of the week and twice on Sundays y’all – it’s a major highlight on Metro Expo 2 when it comes to character in the ideas, versatility in design, and all-out stunning sound – you can’t help but feel the inherent groove this track comes with.
I suppose the original point I was attempting to make in the intro of this review, was to point out that, not only was Metro Expo 2 an eventual inevitability, but that time away quite often equates to quality – and that’s exactly the case when it comes to this second record from the mind of Fred Marcoty. Dude’s like a one-man cross between the incredible theatrics & insightfully melodic ways of a band like Jellyfish, with the added instrumentation of a band with true character like Cake, and then able to give everything he does his own warped or endearing twist that ends up making his music all Metro Expo, 100%. “The Wrong Side Of The Street” had me feeling somewhat similar as I did towards “Old Men Sleeping” in the sense that to a degree, each part of the song had a familiar feeling to it – but in context of the song overall, you wouldn’t find too many tunes as ambitious as this is when it comes to the final combination. I think there are going to be a ton of people out there surprised by a song like this one…because it’s a perfect example of making what could have been typical, undeniably incredible – not only is the instrumentation some of the tightest you’ll find on a bulletproof record, but the way a song like “The Wrong Side Of The Street” moves and is assembled is a solidly audible demonstration of why this project has so often had a progressive label attached to it. Progressive can be so many things – it doesn’t have to be twelve-minute long winding epics that go absolutely nowhere, if that’s your impression – quite often, it’s a label that can be applied to artists like Fred that can take something straight-ahead, and give it just enough complex twists & turns to make the ordinary, extraordinary. Sound-selection is superb, and I love the chops on display from the drums in this cut as well – all-in-all, “The Wrong Side Of The Street” is once again so well executed from start to finish you’d almost be crazy not to put it right up there with your favorites on this record…which by my count…should likely include all five so far…
Considering the authentic trip this album has been…I’m gonna give a huge thumbs-up to “Cheesy Tunes At The Mall” where it damn well shouldn’t bloody belong…yet here we are, and that’s the case. Anyone out there that doesn’t want to acknowledge how perfect this song IS, can FIGHT ME. Does that mean it’s my favorite on the album? No! Good lord knows there is SO MUCH of me that wants to not like this song at ALL – but…but this…man…this is irresistible FUN and I’m HERE for it. What I’m saying is, had you explained this tune to me on paper before I’d listened to it, I’d have laughed and said there would be no possibility of me enjoying myself…definitely not this much – “Cheesy Tunes At The Mall” is a fuckin riot, and it’s a BRILLIANT example of what songwriting is really all about at its fundamental core, like it or not. What do I mean? What does “Cheesy Tunes At The Mall” sound like, you ask? EXACTLY what the title implies, and the lyricism embraces this wholeheartedly with wide-open arms. I am 100% all about commitment in every form you can find it in from musicians to athletes to otherwise – I just wanna see & hear people that believe in what they do, and excel because of that, regardless of what any of it is about subject-wise. I mean, it MATTERS of course…songs like “Cheesy Tunes At The Mall” completely beat the odds because you WILL want to listen to this tune likely just as much as any of the others, making this inclusion just about the slyest thing that Metro Expo could have ever done to us all. Fred knows we’re ALL gonna be addicted to this wonderful oddity, because how could anyone not be? The passionate way this song is sincerely played to suit the theme is beyond remarkable – it’s award worthy – I literally cannot say enough about the stellar musicianship on display, the tightness in the execution, and how much the focus in the songwriting has brought out some of the best in Metro Expo in the strangest of ways you’d never expect on “Cheesy Tunes At The Mall.” It’s as fun as it gets, full-stop, and the final twist of spoken-word at the end gives this track one last genuine laugh of the many you get to have along the way; you’re in on every second of the fun Metro Expo is having with this splash of audible self-deprecation. I wouldn’t have expected to have enjoyed this as much as I do, and am, still. Like, David Lee Roth has done similar things to a degree, and it’s made me wanna punch his face for it.
The bass-lines, keyboards, and guitars on “Homeland Rock” are quite likely to drop your jaw in amazement, and get a true salute of respect from the fellow musicians out there. There is a part of me that feels like there’s a slight chance that “Homeland Rock” will get a bit lost within the confines of this particular record & the people out there checking out the creativity in this versatile lineup of tunes – but it’s certainly no less listenable by any stretch of the imagination. The facts are that Metro Expo inches closer towards what we know & have experienced in music with a track like this, even more-so than “Old Men Sleeping” or “The Wrong Side Of The Street” had done by quite a margin – and were it not for the radiant array of musicianship and lively spirit this track has, it might have been relegated to the sea of sameness potentially. What wins you over without question is the level of skill, passion, and pure enthusiasm on display here – and once again, in the context of songwriting & going after a specific type of sound & style, you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due, Metro Expo slays “Homeland Rock” for everything it’s worth, and squeezes the groove-juice from every amplified note & tone you’ll listen to. Plus, the guest-appearance from guitarist Jean-Claude Petitjean creates another can’t-miss moment on Metro Expo 2 with his highlight solo as well; the whole track is right ‘in the pocket,’ as they say in the biz.
Loving the guitars in the verses on “Ghost In A Field” too if I’m being entirely honest, the rhythm line is excellent and catches the ears. Solo is on-point too, this time handled expertly by Fred himself if I’m not mistaken, and another significant highlight you’ll find from that instrument upon Metro Expo 2. Depending on who ya are, what your personal background in music might be, or what you connect to most in music, might just determine whether or not it finds the top spot on your playlists. Metro Expo is kinda rockin’ in a like…Mike And The Mechanics type vibe here…perhaps just a bit more edge, supplied mainly by the hint of rasp in Fred’s voice as he sings the verses, but similar through the serenity of the melody in the chorus & the progressive tendencies in the writing that show up in the design. For the musician-crowd out there, I have zero doubt that they’ll love “Ghost In A Field” – as for the rest of the masses out there, chances are this particular cut is gonna take at least a couple spins through this whole album for you to fully appreciate the strength it brings to the lineup. Because make no mistake, that’s exactly what it supplies – depth & strength – “Ghost In A Field” isn’t going to be the song that instantly sends Metro Expo up the charts, but it is a song with complete potential to hold up longer than any of the rest even might over time. Regardless, it’s as high-quality of an experience when it comes to the execution & production as any of the others, and I’m confident that with repeated tours through this record, “Ghost In A Field” will have no problem whatsoever eventually getting the credit its truly due.
Sounding somewhere in between the low-key acoustic-based moments of Incubus & Minus The Bear to start out “Black Hole” – the change-ups made as the song progresses and the choices made by Fred on how to make this song move from beginning to end were definitely some of my favorite decisions he’s made on this album. Chorus & hook-wise, you might also be looking at my favorite melodic moment as well – or how about the most decisive switch in sound/style that you’ll hear as “Black Hole” shifts into an extraordinary new gear just prior to the three-minute mark? What about the mind-blowing layers of audible awesomeness all firing at maximum potential from the brass to the beats to create the inspired finale of “Black Hole” – you heard that too, right? There is every bit of a chance that you’ll find yourself wondering how this song continues to get more & more amazing as you’re listening to it from start to finish – and were it not for the strengths in “The Brewerman” to follow, I’d have been mighty tempted to have “Black Hole” finish Metro Expo 2 if I were Fred…it really does have finale written all over it. That being said, just like a good story unfolds, you get to that peak or climax, and quite likely, you get a bit more to the story afterwards, to lead you out of the experience on a less riotous but more appropriate energy that helps you absorb the daylight again as you leave the theater of your mind after listening. As great as so many of these songs have been and how much they’ve all individually stood out while creating cohesion in this record through consistent commitment to diversity in sound – I couldn’t help but feel that, by the end, it’s pretty undeniable that “Black Hole” probably stands the biggest chance of making the largest impact with listening ears. The catchiness of the verse and sparkling sound the acoustic guitars create is straight-up perfection, along with Fred’s highlight melody in the main hooks of his vocals – but the shift to the most electric & intense moments of “Black Hole” are a bloody thing to behold! Examining the lost time he can’t recall and trying to piece together the puzzle of where he’s been & what he’s done – “Black Hole” is as compelling as it is entertaining, and its final minute is a memorable highlight all to itself…I’d be shocked if this didn’t end up being most listeners favorite cut.
“I’ve been turned into some kind of monster…a spooky creature terrorizing at night…I ride a magic barrel, I wear my apron as a cape…they will taste my beverage, since they cannot escape…watch out for the Brewerman…” Like I was tellin’ ya – there’s no way I wouldn’t want this song included with the lineup of tunes on Metro Expo 2 – this is another savage performance and stellar cut that bursts with confidence, powerful dimension to its sound, and killer depth to the detail in the lyricism. One last supremely satisfying stomp to a decisive victory for versatility, creativity, and quality ideas – Metro Expo goes big in the harmonies & use of loud/quiet dynamics to leave an impact on ya in this final cut. Fred is givin’ it the GUSTO with the way he sings this song – he sounds like he’s just one more cigarette away from goin’ full Tom Waits on ya at his most growly & grizzled – there’s a TON of personality in “The Brewerman” that couldn’t possibly be ignored. Dmitry Karev comes in to add to the swirl of madness & the intensity of the final moments of “The Brewerman” as Metro Expo finishes this highly-anticipated second record with the same level of pure commitment, dedication, and strengths on which it began. Over the course of ten tunes, Metro Expo 2 never lets up in its ability to entertain even one iota, and is verifiable proof that a flawless set of ten songs doesn’t happen overnight…it takes approximately six years if I’m counting the time between Metro Expo 1 and this record…and I’ve never been so ok with that as I am now and have been since listening to this sequel. This whole lineup was stocked with music well worth the waiting…inventive, innovative, and inspired…the attention to detail & fluid flow of Metro Expo 2 is no accident whatsoever – it’s the result of dedication, effort, time, & skill – you can’t miss it.
Learn more about Metro Expo and find all kinds of links to more info here: http://www.metroexpo.sitew.be
Listen to Metro Expo at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7D1W3OTTM6Go2S5vc1abO1
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