Depictions of Protomartyr’s frontman Joe Casey have never been one to paint him or the band as pioneers of some sort of cultural phenomenon. Hell, reviews of the their last two records often highlight the alleged mundane appearance of Casey’s image.
From how I perceived him watching live last year at Pickathon, he’s an older dude in modern terms, stands rigid and nervous as he sings on stage, and resembles more that of a Tom Berninger vibe than a Matt Berninger vibe. With wrinkled suit a size too large, he almost fits the bill of open mic night over that of a touring professional.
All in all, Protomartyr still release kick-ass music, and have a big winner (and record label) again with Relatives In Descent.
Color fans surprised too when the album release extravaganza found them playing host to anybody who is anybody in this new resurgence of artful, post-punk records. Casey and company (referred to this particular night as “Boatomartyr”) hosted the event in their hometown Detroit on a cruise ship normally reserved for more formal events like dances and company parties. However unorthodox, they managed their own “I was there…” entry into cool kid canon ala James Murphy, with attendees ranging from Preoccupations, to Tyvek, to METZ (Strange Peace in stores now!).
Needless to say, Protomartyr are steadily creeping onto the radar with shining consistency.
Not only that, people are responding, both enterprise and artist. Considering someone like David Bazan covered their lead track off of 2015’s The Agent Intellect, it shows the crossover appeal is there where the name has caught on. Not only that, the former Hardly Art boys have now achieved fully art if you will in their newfound status on Domino Recording Co. The songwriting shows too. Where Joe Casey’s lyricism always stood at the forefront, compositions are less garage rock oriented, trading outright punk numbers for a more sophisticated buildup, such as on “A Private Understanding”.
Word has it that he often puts himself on the spot crafting each entry, either that or with little time to write. This shows in a sense with how fast Protomartyr have been churning out content as a band, but it also shows how gifted he is as a wordsmith and songwriter.
Casey’s annunciation is as forceful as it ever was on Relatives In Descent.
Considering the muted shouting technique he incorporated in the past on tracks like “Why Does It Shake”, brooding guitars add another element to the mystique on Relatives in Descent. “Windsor Hum” and “Up The Tower” provide the clearest examples of this.
Joe Casey ain’t glamorous, but his elder statesman prowess and blue collar image have helped craft Protomartyr into perhaps the biggest figurehead of post-punk resurgence this decade. His stage presence evokes perpetual nervousness and anxiety, as evidenced by his lyricism, but delivery sparks a new take on Mark E. Smith’s eccentric performances with The Fall, or even more modern comparisons like Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt.
Chalk Relatives In Descent as another hit in Protomartyr’s discography. They’re only getting bigger, and even better, I may have to count this here as a second album of the year topper, having already given 2014’s Under Color of Official Right that honor three years ago.