Detroit-based band Protomartyr has become the new name in the post punk scene. Since starting in 2012, they have become wildly appreciated, because there’s just something about a sad boy from a shitty neighborhood singing great songs in a shitty bar that’s addicting to the ears.
With solid record sales and growing popularity, the band released a third album on Oct. 9, The Agent Intellect. If you could imagine a cross breed between Joy Division and Cloud Nothings, that’s what it sounds like.
No Passion All Technique, Protomartyr’s debut record, sounded more rock ‘n’ roll than post punk. Released by Urinal Cake Records, No Passion’s guitar resembled music found in the ’70s rather than modern times. The band switched record labels and has been under Hardly Art ever since releasing their album Under Color of Official Right. Each song under Urinal Cake held a calming-but-positive vibe that differs from the mellow-but-depressing vibe you get from other works under Hardly Art.
In The Agent Intellect, singer Joe Casey has a voice that resembles moaning dialogues instead of actual singing, haunting the listener with each syllable. Casey holds a monotone voice throughout the album that reflects the feeling of giving up. In “Pontiac 87,” Casey states, “There’s no use in being sad about it/ What’s the point of crying about it?” to emphasize his passive tone in the songs and his most likely passive attitude towards life.
Similarly to Protomartyr’s previous albums, religious and philosophical undertones are present in The Agent Intellect. The song “Feast of Stephen,” was inspired by the celebration of St. Stephen who was the first christian martyr (or “Protomartyr”). Coincidence? I think not. They also have a song named “Boyce or Boice,” which is the name of a demon that disrupts any electronic technology. But what is odd about Protomartyr is that the references aren’t metaphors to anything emotional or spiritual; they are quite literal.
In “Boyce and Boice” there are lyrics that simply state, “Electronic malfunction/ The strange opinions from foreign lands,” and then it continues with words that I can’t make out and that don’t make any sense. Maybe I just don’t get the deep meaning to this song because I have never had an encounter with demons that mess up my computer, or maybe that deep meaning simply doesn’t exist. I guess it’s up to the listener, which is what music is supposed to be about. Pure interpretation.
Despite the weird lyrics and monotone vocals, guitarist Greg Ahee pulls together each song to create a gorgeous flow in the album. He hits the strings in all of the right places to keep the listener’s interest with each song holding different components.
The first single from the album, “Why Does It Shake,” displays the disoriented feeling in their songs. It starts out as a slow head-banger when Casey states “False happiness is on the rise/ See the victims pile high,” building up to a hard-core sounding thrasher when he says “I’m never gonna lose it.” The build up releases and the song ends with this hypnotic sounding chant of “Why does it shake/ The body the body/ Why does it move/ The fear the fear.” The mood of this song and others in The Agent Intellect have that wonderful contrast in sounds making it a perfect album to listen to when you’re laying in your room, staring at the ceiling, thinking about life.
Although The Agent Intellect lacks the interesting lyrics present in Protomartyr’s first two albums, it contains dreamy instrumentals that still tug on your heart strings. Let’s hope the band releases more chill jams and doesn’t follow their lyrical chant at the end of “Cowards Starve,” by “going out in style” with this album.