protomartyr

Of all the interpretations of Aristotle’s concept of agent intellect, the most apt for Protomartyr is the one that says human cognition happens through reference to shared concepts. It’s impossible to hear this third album in four years from the Detroit foursome without abstracting it through the same touchpoints as the others: early-eighties post-punk, razor-edged noise rock, etc. Certainly Joe Casey’s laconic baritone voice is still shot through with the same listless gloominess as it was on last year’s full-length breakthrough, ‘Under Color of Official Right’, and in fact there’s a similarly monochromatic aesthetic enveloping the entire record.

Where previously Casey’s dark lyrical fantasies have tended to stem from his literary proclivities though, here they sometimes emanate from a much more tangible place. On ‘Ellen’ for instance, the singer fills the part of his deceased father in waiting for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother in the afterlife; the middle of the track fading into noise like lost memories.

If thematically some tracks are smaller-scale, musically things have been blown up. Big, bruising codas close out ‘Pontiac 87’ and ‘Clandestine Time’ and the whole thing feels much more of an amped-up, riff-heavy affair than before. Predictably, any criticism comes down to the fact that Protomartyr are distilling existing concepts here rather than creating anything new but hey, that’s agent intellect, right?

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