There is a line in Protomartyr’s music that goes from Michigan to UK and back. From their state (and particularly from Detroit) Joe Casey and friends took the fury and rage of Iggy Pop’s garage punk and the glacial obsession from techno music, of course only from the “mood and vibes” point of view. From UK the band took everything else: sound, riffs, darkness, post punk nihilism.
In fact Protomartyr are a post punk band with a British sound and the destiny to be born in Trump’s United States. From the first album No Passion Only Technique (2012, out for Urinal Cake) Joe Casey (vocals), Greg Ahee (guitar), Alex Leonard (drums) and Scott Davidson (bass guitar) have expressed their strong criticism about american society and multinational capitalism, with acid sarcasm in lyrics and garage punk towed by heavy guitar riffs. Release after release their sound have come closer to post punk and the references to Fall, Joy Division and Gang Of Four have outlined their aesthetics. Under Color of Official Right (2014) confirmed this evolution and The Agent Intellect in 2015 helped the band to take place in the growing punk and post- contemporary scene. Relatives in Descent (2017, out for Domino) is the consecration of a band ready to represent in music the political opposition to American government and the excesses of a society in which everything is under control.
Ultimate Success Today (2020, out for Domino) shows a band firmly insisting on nihilism to provoke a reaction against the chaos we are living due to populism and turbo capitalism. Noisy as punk can be, oppressive as nervous guitar riffs can be, intense as Casey’s voice can be.
“Day Without End” is the corrosive first track, with a crescendo of Casey’s voice and a tortured guitar. “Processed By The Boys” contains a list of possible causes for the end of the world and expresses the rage against widespread control: “Fill out the form, download the app, Submit your face into the scanner”. Guitars create a noisy wall that doesn’t give a break. “I Am You Now” is guided by drums and creates a tension difficult to forget thanks to the guitar explosions. “Michigan Hammers” takes back to the garage punk that allows Casey’s spoken word to express at his best. After some other sonic attacks, the final “Worm in Heaven” brings a moment of calm reflection, a slow and melancholic ballad that leaves us with no certainty of what will be our future as a society, if there will be a future or not. This song however leaves a piece of hope: “So it’s time to say goodbye, I was never too keen on last words, Hope I said something good”.
Ultimate Success Today is something good for everyone who wants to listen music to feel alive and to cultivate indignation against the ugliness around.