By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two of Canada’s most celebrated modern-rock bands make a San Francisco stop on their current tandem tour Saturday when METZ and Preoccupations share the stage at the Independent with acclaimed Chicago post-punk outfit FACS opening the show.

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One of the leading lights of punk in North America in the past decade, Canadian trio METZ was formed in Ottowa in 2008 by guitarist/singer Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies. The band quickly developed its tuneful take on noise-rock indebted to the sounds of the Jesus Lizard, Drive Like Jehu and early Nirvana through its early live performances and a string of singles recorded for Toronto-based imprint We Are Busy Bodies Records.

Those kinetic, pile-driving tunes and the band’s reputation for ferocious onstage delivery would earn the group a deal with Sub Pop Records, which released METZ’s eponymous debut album. Clocking in at just under a half an hour, the explosive effort earned the band wide praise and was nominated for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize in 2013.

Over the course of the trio’s subsequent three albums for the label, METZ has largely stuck to its original template of mixing corrosive, desperate riffs with flashes of surprisingly catchy melodies while working with a couple of noise-rock icons along the way. They collaborated with Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes/Rocket From the Crypt guitarist John Reis on a two-song single in 2016 and had legendary engineer Steve Albini record their third album Strange Peace that came out the following year.

Sub Pop issued the compilation Automat that collected some of the threesome’s hard-to-find singles and unreleased early material in 2019 to appease fans while METZ worked on their fourth album. Atlas Vending was released last year and pushed the band’s into more experimental territory — sometimes recalling Sonic Youth — while retaining its signature locomotive energy. Amid the pandemic shutdown that kept the band home when they would have been touring, Sub Pop this past summer released Live at the Opera House, an audio and video document that ably captures the relentless intensity of a METZ performance.

METZ finally returns to the Bay Area for the first time since playing the UC Theatre in support of Refused in March of 2020 when this tour with fellow Canadian outfit Preoccupations arrives at the Independent. Rising from the ashes of star-crossed Calgary-based band Women (who had gone into a holding pattern after an onstage fight in 2010, two years before guitarist Christopher Reimer died suddenly in his sleep), bassist/singer Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace formed a new quartet called Viet Cong with guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen in 2012.

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Nodding heavily to the brooding music of goth forebears Bauhaus (whose song “Dark Entries” they covered), Joy Division and the Cure, Viet Cong quickly attracted attention given the members’ pedigree. The following year, the group self released a cassette (appropriately entitled Cassette) that soon stirred interest in a number of independent labels with its terse, guitar-driven tracks tracks like “Throw It Away” and “Structureless Design.” A fiery set at South By Southwest in 2014 would lead to the group signing with Canadian label Flemish Eye and U.S. indie imprint Jagjaguwar.

In 2015, the band garnered still more acclaim with its self-titled debut and even got some airplay on college radio with the churning intensity of “Continental Drift.” However, the group also started getting some unwanted attention because of its name. Criticized for being culturally insensitive, the band made headlines when a promoter pulled the plug on a planned gig at Oberlin College in Ohio because of the name. In April of 2016, the group announced that it would switch its moniker to Preoccupations.

Issued that same year, the outfit’s eponymous debut under the new name earned the quartet another round of overwhelmingly positive reviews. Drifting away from the angular guitar riffs that had marked their earlier work, Preoccupations delved deeper into pulsing synthesizer drone and Eno-esque ambient soundscapes, especially on the dreamy, epic 11-minute track “Memory” featuring guest vocals from Dan Boeckner, the leader fellow Canadian contemporaries Wolf Parade.

The group would spend a busy summer playing festivals and touring with cinematic instrumental rockers Explosions in the Sky before spending most of 2017 off the radar, writing and recording songs for their second effort as Preoccupations. Released on Jagjaguwar Records in 2018, the aptly titled New Material continues the band’s embrace of chilly atmospheres and urgent, post-punk throb but features some of Flegel’s most accessible vocal melodies yet. The band announced just over year ago that it had completed recording instruments for its fourth album and only had to finish working on vocals. Fans could get a preview of the new material Saturday.

The two Canadian bands will be joined by FACS, a like-minded band from Chicago. Formed by Brian Case (ex-90 Day Men, Ponys), Noah Leger and Jonathan van Herik of the acclaimed post-punk group Disappears after that band called it quits in 2016, FACS crafts a similar murky, minimalist style of art punk that recalls British experimental pioneers This Heat and krautrock greats Faust.

Relentlessly prolific since releasing their first album Negative Houses on the Trouble in Mind label in 2018 (their only album before the departure of van Herik), the band would recruit Alianna Kalaba (Cat Power, We Ragazzi) to play bass on the trio’s sophomore album Lifelike the following year. Case and company have maintained a steady output of new music that continuously pushes the band’s intense, claustrophobic sound forward. Their latest effort Present Tense came out earlier this year to some of the band’s best reviews yet.

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METZ and Preoccupations with FACS
Saturday, Nov. 20, doors 8:30 p.m., show 9 p.m. $20
The Independent