Album Review: Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today

14 July 2020 | 10:15 am | Chris Familton

"It’s full of life and life-affirming creative protest."

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Once more Protomartyr take the four elements of rock ’n’ roll – guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and twist, caress and mangle them into a new version of the band’s ever-evolving sound. On their fifth album that sound is more urgent, disillusioned and anxious amid the record’s dystopian assessment of modern America.

There’s a desperate, pleading quality to singer Joe Casey’s words and the band complement and elevate his voice perfectly. With thrilling sonic veracity they lay down high velocity, post-punk textures, with balanced amounts of nuance and noise. 

Jazz legend Jameel Moondoc guests on alto sax as well as other horn and cello players. On June 21 the voice of Half Waif, aka Nandi Rose Plunkett, is a symbiotic foil to Casey’s wearied mantras as they work up a clanging krautrock noise. Processed By The Boys documents the insidious creep of authoritarianism, the brilliant rush of Michigan Hammers rails against exploitation for financial gain, while closer Worm In Heaven is Casey looking back from the other side, contemplating one’s legacy.

There’s a lot to bum out the listener on this record, yet musically it’s full of life and life-affirming creative protest. It’s a band finding new and thrilling ways to channel their music and convey their hopes and fears. It’s a full-blooded state of the nation address from the heart and soul.