Nearly three years on from their last album Relatives In Descent, Protomartyr are back with a further distillation of their shouty, noisy punk. In that time we’ve seen the emergence of IDLES, Shame, Fontaines DC, and the Murder Capital. These guys stand apart. Maybe it’s the weirdness of forty-something-year-old frontman Joe Casey?
It opens with Day Without End, Casey growling his way through the first two minutes before spitting out lyrics “short breath, never come”, building and building to an explosion that never quite arrives. It’s one of many songs to feature somewhat… strangulated woodwind. Guitarist Greg Ahee emerges as the MVP on this album. There’s no let-up in the tension building as his clipped Gang of Four style guitar introduces Processed By The Boys. The song lurches along uneasily for 5 minutes, leading to I Am You Now. Here Casey is in full-on shouty mode as Ahee toys with the Black Sabbath Paranoid riff.
Singer Nandi Rose of Half Waif sings the first few lines on June 21, a taut, wiry track, a little like a more ragged version of The National. Ahee’s guitar work is excellent here, visceral and unpredictable chords pierce through to dominate the song. And the cocky, strutting guitar lines of Modern Business Hymns are a sheer joy, before the melody collapses in on itself in the coda. It’s a real triumphant moment on the album.
Some more subdued numbers have crept into Protomartyr’s style in recent years. The Aphorist is one of their more melodic songs, as is Bridge & Crown which builds uneasily, never quite resolving itself. The final track is the downbeat Worm In Heaven, featuring a fine croon by Joe Casey, anchored by Alex Leonard’s steady drumbeat. Another which nods towards territory inhabited by The National, it’s like a slow death march, in a good way.
At 10 tracks the album feels brief, perhaps falling a little short of Relatives In Descent? It’s a high standard indeed, on an album where Ahee’s punchy guitar sets it apart. Fans won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure.
1. Day Without End
2. Processed By The Boys
3. I Am You Now
4. The Aphorist
5. June 21
6. Michigan Hammers
8. Modern Business Hymns
9. Bridge & Crown
10. Worm In Heaven
Processed By The Boys