Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent Review


Protomartyr get wordy and Nick Cave-y on their fourth album.
Domino, 2017
Purchase: Amazon

7.8 / 10

Maybe I didn’t pay much attention in Protomartyr‘s three previous releases. Or maybe it’s just with this album, but frontman Joe Casey sounds a lot like Nick Cave on their new album. Relatives In Descent marks the band’s fourth album and their first for Domino Records. Obviously, they want to make an impression. Aside from Casey’s impression of Grinderman-era Cave, the band follows the trend of many others this year by ripping their inspiration from the headlines so to speak. This means Relatives In Descent gets pretty political. And Casey isn’t a fan of The Donald.

You get an immediate reference in the album’s opening song, “A Private Understanding”, referring to Trump supporters as “Trumpets”. Then, “Up The Tower”, angry citizens storm a tower (Trump tower?), smash down its golden door, and throw its occupant out the window. Alex Leonard’s drums are important here; not only for creating tension but bringing to mind people storming up the tower. After his urging to “Throw him out,” Casey sings, “What a lovely view/ From the window/ What a lovely dream.” It’s Cave…er Casey at his darkest.

Apart from “Up The Tower”, cathartic bursts of blistering rock don’t come as often as you might like. Much of the time, Protomartyr’s jagged melodies sit there while Casey speak-sings over them. It’s clear that the emphasis is on the lyricism. And wordy lyricism. Most of the verses here are statements. There’s not a lot you can grab onto or sing along with. It will be interesting how Protomartyr approaches these songs in their live shows. It almost seems like Relatives In Descent will be an album they tour to get through. They may revisit songs like “Windsor Hum” and “Male Plague” on tour dates for future albums. However, the songs of Relatives In Descent are handcuffed to these times to be relevant. But even if it doesn’t lend itself to live shows, it works as an album. And a damn good one.

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