Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Protomartyr turn grappling with the inexplicable nature of all things into something genuinely fruitful, and Relatives in Descent could be their best record yet

Album Review by Ed Bottomley | 26 Sep 2017
Album title: Relatives in Descent
Artist: Protomartyr
Label: Domino
Release date: 29 Sep

Reality is a likely a succession of misleading daydreams. Attempts to define irrefutable truths can bring out the fool in anyone, but on their fourth LP, Protomartyr turn grappling with the inexplicable nature of all things over 12 songs into something genuinely fruitful.

The Detroit quartet’s tense, stark, autumnal post-punk, played with a particular bar band looseness (now with the added richness of some well placed strings and synthesizers) turns out to be a solid foundation for frontman Joe Casey’s downcast outlook. Whether ranting and sneering in disgust on Here Is The Thing or Windsor Hum, or mournfully crooning on Up the Tower – lurching one way then the other on the latter, like a disorienting and violent mood swing – he rarely fails to stirringly evoke the personal isolation caused by humanity’s lack of a shared understanding.

The absurdity and hopelessness of this situation is potentially best expressed on The Chuckler, as Casey laments, 'I guess I’ll keep on chuckling 'til there’s no more breath in my lungs / Lord how I wish there was a better ending to this joke,' over some of Greg Ahee’s most sparse and beautiful guitar playing. Elsewhere, Protomartyr galvanize themselves into a more driving and forceful mode on the likes of Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague, wherein lie some of Relatives in Descent's strongest hooks, and ultimately it’s the strength and clarity of the ideas put down that could make this their best record yet.

Listen to: My Children, The Chuckler, Don't Go To Anacita