Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent
Steadily rising over the past 3 years is Detroit’s Protomartyr. Blending the sounds of Wire’s darkened post-punk (via 154), the lyrical wit of Mark E. Smith / The Fall and the angular intensity of Pere Ubu, Protomartyr defy what is happening within independent music today while progressively building a devoted audience. Vocalist Joe Casey is a Motor City Nick Cave canvassing the bleak landscape around him while the band, specifically guitarist Greg Ahee, paint deep strokes of washed-out chords and darkened textures.
Ever since their 2014 LP, Under Color Of Official Right, Protomartyr have been on an upward trajectory though they continue to exist in an unassuming light. Having seen them at a house show in Ithaca at that time, I can speak to their stripped down approach and look. But putting that aside, there’s an intensity and fuck-if-I-care attitude clearly evident in their live performance. It all coalesces wonderfully on their new record, Relatives In Descent. In their press release, the band talked about being influenced by a performance with The Pop Group as well as listening to the Raincoats’ ESSENTIAL 2nd album Odyshape. The latter is of particular importance to me since I’ve always been blown away by the mysterious, winding and un-categorizable sound of The Raincoats follow-up to their (equally amazing) 1980 self-titled debut.
You can hear that warped post-punk appeal on the hermetic and poetic character study, “A Private Understanding,” which talks about the private moments of Elvis Presley and Obama. It’s a hell of track to kick of an LP. Not only is it ambitious but it sets the tone for the driving sincerity of Relatives In Descent. “My Children” is a truly great experience of fatherhood with Casey lamenting that his creations ultimately consume everything - “what’s mine, now yours.” However, he tempers this with a paradoxical, positive bitterness that makes it all seem worthwhile. “My children / Pay dividends / Vomit and rage spewing forth in the drive-thru” echoes throughout a Joy Division like pulverizing rhythm underneath massive guitars. Truly one of Protomartyr’s great moments on record.
Relatives In Descent is full of these moments. Moody, temperamental, embattled tension but emotional warmth too. To be able to pair these emotions with spartan post-punk is a true work of art. Highly recommended! (Dom)
Check out a track here.