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Protomartyr's abstract warnings of a world going wrong


Protomartyr, Relatives in Descent
  • Protomartyr, Relatives in Descent

Detroit's Protomartyr developed a tough post-punk reputation over the course of three previous albums, but lyricist/vocalist Joe Casey always seemed to harbor more intellectual intent, which is front and center on Relatives in Descent. Casey's baritone stylings bear similarities to Mark E. Smith of The Fall, but from its track "A Private Understanding," the new album shows an empathy and understanding for the world's downtrodden that is missing in most Fall music. There are puzzling juxtapositions, such as tense guitars amid references to "the smell of sauerkraut and cloves" in "The Chuckler." There are also interruptions and gimmicks of the type once favored by late-'70s British art punks, such as the telemarketer that rings Casey up mid-album; yet these never seem to be gimmicky distractions, instead serving as abstract warnings of a world going wrong. There are concrete references to gentrification and the Flint, Michigan, lead contamination crisis, but Protomartyr make sure the dozen songs here are abstract puzzles that the listener must tease to the surface, even while dancing all the way to the apocalypse.

File next to: Preoccupations, Fucked Up, Parquet Courts

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