Live Review: Protomartyr, Mere Women

19 February 2018 | 3:00 pm | Joel Lohman

"Casey meets a fan's repeated, shouted requests for 'I Forgive You' by saying, "I forgive you, too," each time, but never playing it."

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Mere Women singer Amy Wilson nods her head and generally rocks out about as much as one can while playing keyboard. Wilson's battle cry is well matched by her band's urgent and morose post-punk stylings. They are clearly proficient musicians, playing more interesting and intricate parts than is strictly necessary, to pleasing effect.

Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey does not look particularly happy to be here, but it would be more alarming if he did. As the band launches into recent single My Children, it is immediately obvious that Casey has taken up the rambling, misanthropic mantle recently vacated by Mark E Smith of The Fall (RIP). Early song In My Sphere ends with Casey barking, "There's no passion!... It's all technique!" like a madman. It's a mighty display of how this band has always had both in spades, but also demonstrates how their song structures and melodies have become more sophisticated over time.

Casey is a scowling and scolding singer more concerned with lyrics and feeling than trifling matters like key or pitch. Up The Tower is a great example, during which he bellows the phrase "Throw him out!" 28 times in a row and we wonder how on Earth he does this every night. The set reaches an early high point as What The Wall Said collides straight into the start of The Devil In His Youth.

Clapping and singing along seems antithetical to what they do, and nothing about their performance encourages it, but some parts - like the chorus of Come & See and basically all of A Private Understanding - are just too good to resist. Casey meets a fan's repeated, shouted requests for I Forgive You by saying, "I forgive you, too," each time, but never playing it. The main set ends with Half Sister, one of many songs tonight that showcases what an excellent and increasingly distinctive guitarist Greg Ahee is developing into.

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The band takes one of the briefest, most perfunctory encore breaks ever before closing with the undeniable one-two punch of Why Does It Shake? and Scum, Rise! (apparently the best Protomartyr songs are those with punctuation marks in the title), after which Casey takes his suit jacket from mic stand, wipes his face, nods and leaves.

Protomartyr are firmly in the tradition of punk-adjacent bands who never give you exactly what you want, but it's impossible to be disappointed with whatever you get.