PROTOMARTYR: FormalGrowth in the Desert: LP

Jul 21, 2023

The last two Protomartyr records are both albums I’ve gone back to later. Don’t get me wrong, I bought and listened to them both when they came out, appreciated their musicianship and lyrics, but they so effectively echoed their time periods—Relatives in Descent in 2017, and Ultimate Success Today in 2020—that their prevailing sentiments seemed like too much somehow. I’ve been listening to Descent in the car a little bit recently, and it’s wild how the songs on that one resonate the specific tuning fork I connect to the beginning of the previous administration, and all the dread it portended. Formal Growth in the Desert doesn’t carry the immediate psychic heft the last two did, more because of where I’m at than because of the subject matter of the rec, which deals in part with the death of singer Joe Casey’s mother. Whatever the reason, this one feels somehow less claustrophobic than the last few, and thus more immediate, which has allowed me easier access to this batch of songs. If you haven’t heard the band already, Protomartyr’s vibe is chilly, with chorus-drenched, brittle guitars over a rhythm section that relies more on impact than cymbal hits, all while Casey intones lyrics more than singing them. These songs expand the musical territory present in their previous stuff, all distinctly of and by the band without carbon copying previous efforts, a fucking fantastic entry to the band’s already formidable catalogue. One of the best American bands under the large umbrella of punk rock. –Michael T. Fournier (Hardly Art)

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