If you’re not completely enamored with Protomartyr, you might well wonder why they don’t lighten up a little. What with all the critical adulation and popularity (in hipster precincts, at least), you’d think that their outlook could stand to get at least a touch brighter.
Of course, there are plenty of crises and concerns to darken one’s mood these days. And on Protomartyr’s fourth LP, Relatives in Descent, the Detroit band continues to mine them in their stolid, cryptic, politely dissonant way. Here are some typically ominous lines from the opening track, “A Private Understanding:” [LISTEN]
This isn’t quite the same old post-post-punk existential dread, though. The band sounds looser and more relaxed on this track and the ones that follow than they did on The Agent Intellect or Under Color of Official Right. Alex Leonard’s rumbling drums, Greg Ahee’s droning guitar and Joe Casey’s deadpan baritone feel as if they could fly off in different directions at any second.
On the disarmingly soothing “Night-Blooming Cereus,” Casey and his bandmates manage to muster a modicum of hope. It may be illusory — Casey classified this as “good delusions” when he spoke to NPR — but with Protomartyr, you take what you can get: [LISTEN]