Relatives in Descent
The post-punk touchstones that inform Protomartyr’s sound have long bore a somewhat uneasy relationship to the working class experience. Post-punk’s angular, willfully obtuse approach to songwriting paired with oft high falutin lyrical preoccupations associated with the mode can all too often smack of elitism. So, when Detroit’s Protomartyr first emerged from their basement practice space, spouting feedback enveloped dispatches from blue-collar America, the quartet were a revitalising breath of, if not fresh air, acrid smog.
Now on their 4th record proper, Protomartyr’s well-worn sound and worldview, though still distinct, has become something more of a known quantity in the indie sphere – think Wire meets The Wire. All the core tenets of their sound remain present and correct – spindly lead guitar lines, deceptively complex drumwork, lyrical diatribes detailing the experiences of the maligned via stoic baritone.
It would be a remiss to suggest Protomartyr have lost their edge- there is shortage of grit on their latest release, yet there is undoubtedly a certain softening of approach on display. A string section and an acoustic guitar intermittently appear, perma-suited frontman Joe Casey even adopts a seemingly unironic Croon on Up The Tower. Even the more down-the-line tracks, without these novel instrumental tweaks or flourishes, are still colored a certain unfamiliar light and buoyancy. As comparatively gentle as this collection can occasionally be – it never reads slight or inessential.
Words – Danny Wilson
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