Protomartyr’s never gonna be the band to turn to buck up and feel better about life. That’s not the Detroit post-punk group’s modus operandi. When I caught them last year in Columbia, Mo. I don’t think lead singer Joe Casey broke a smile once the entire night. He just stood on the small cafe stage in all-black and bellowed about what’s broken and arot in our modern state. And there was a liberating feeling to that, to see a performative acceptance of life’s maelstroms.
Protomartyr’s lead single from its forthcoming fourth LP, Relatives in Descent, sinks into the sorrow as well as any track from the band’s recent backlog. On “A Private Understanding,” all-too urgent phone calls are going unheard. There’s a constant weeping and gnashing of teeth and conscience is said to equate to “despair,” so being in a waking state isn’t exactly sanctification. That Casey intones about these changing winds over a chugging guitar line and pattering drums only adds to the gravitas of it all. And the sole thing that keeps it from sinking into total self-parody and miserablism for it’s own sake is that the phone’s still ringing. “She’s just trying to reach you. She’s just trying to reach you.” That’s enough to carry on.
The album is out September 29 via Domino Records.