What may make one band great isn’t always what makes another one just as satisfactory. We haven’t had the luxury of being able to watch Detroit’s Protomartyr since they formed in 2010, but once they began releasing material we knew all about them. The band makes post-punk that’s tightly wound and heavily orchestrated in how the songs are written. That part you may know already. What you may not realize is how well written their lyrics are. Poignant in some ways, political in others, Joe Casey finds a way to use proper verbiage without sounding too stuffy.
Those well penned words alongside an ability to craft hard hitting and at times, catchy post-punk is why we love them so. With a successful run of records stemming from 2012 to 2018, they’re a band that we can’t get enough of and who we feel compelled to cover with each move that they make. All of this as well as a blistering live show is why they’re one of our favorite bands of this last decade.
Their second album, Under Color of Official Right is like no other post-punk album you’ve heard before. Fearless, steering away from what you may discern as post-punk, there may be moments that remind you of Wire or The Fall, but it also stands alone in the genre. The careful use of words on this album is blended with persistant guitars and snappy rhythms. While “Ain’t So Simple” stands on its own, or how “Bad Advice” is bookmarked with a darkness, it’s how the songs are so curated that makes them so extraordinary.
The following release The Agent Intellect saw the band step up their game. If not for coming up with more accessible songs than with their laser like precision that flows from open to close. “The Devil in His Youth” might be one of our favorite album openings ever, while stating “it just gets better.” Those lyrics “I will make them feel the way I do,” stepped up against those searing harmonic guitars and that drum beat that echoes chaos is just beautifully sculpted sound. The whole album plays out as such. “Cowards Starve” has the perfect tension build, “Boyce or Boice” has the perfect amount of aggression and “Dope Cloud” has just the right amount of sneer. It’s all there while the song “Why Does It Shake?” is perfectly balanced and on another level for post-punk.
However as great as these two albums are though, the band’s third album in three years Relatives In Descent is by far their greatest. Perfect from the start of those drums and that incredible build on “A Private Understanding” to the dissonant tones of “Half Sister.” The album is like a study in how to reinvent a genre. “Here Is The Thing” has a mix of murdered out bass and melodic guitar, “My Children” sounds almost like a post-punk symphony is how delicate it gets constructed and “Catriona” is just a hard hitter. The album is everything and there’s not a bad track on it.
Of course the 2018 Consolation E.P. is complete reinvention. Two of the songs feature Kelley Deal who adds just the perfect harmonic balance to the tracks. This was followed by a split E.P. Irony Prompts a Party Rat with Spray Paint and a split E.P. with Preoccupations, Telemetry at Howe Bridge, both are fantastic. Now that the band has reissued their debut album No Passion All Technique, and they’re rumored to have new music out next year, we ask you to find a band as exemplary.
All of these releases are available to purchase or stream. Under Color of Official Right and The Agent Intellect can be purchased directly from Hardly Art. Relatives In Descent, Consolation E.P. and No Passion All Technique can be purchased directly from Domino Recordings. Irony Prompts a Party Rat is available to purchase from Monofonus Press. Protomartyr is set to perform on New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Steel.
Image Credits: Photo by Daniel Topete.