Review: Protomartyr – Consolation E.P.
National Music Reviews
Protomartyr = Preoccupations + MC5
Here we are being propelled into another summer, and Protomartyr have delivered a beautiful, angry flower growing out of a shithouse world. Protomartyr’s Consolation EP contains four dynamic new songs: “Wait,” “Same Face In A Different Mirror,” “Wheel Of Fortune” and “You Always Win.” Modern aggression makes you want to punch the wall—Protomartyr make you want to drag your fist across the bricks. Using that post-punk wall of sound with relentless guitars and brutal upfront percussion, Protomartyr have always sounded like the raw, Detroit, MC5 Kick Out The Jams–era rage shoved through a late ’70s post-punk London filter. What comes out the other side is a perfect storm of pleasantly complicated, stressed-out bliss.
The band is made up of Joe Casey (vocals), Greg Ahee (guitars), Scott Davidson (bass) and Alex Leonard (drums). All are in fine form here, especially Casey—his vocal style falls somewhere between that old-school post-punk baritone and a Pogues, mid-career Shane Macgowan snarl. Kelley Deal from The Breeders provides vocals, hums and purrs on the final two songs. Her vocal talents are perfectly placed to counterbalance Casey’s guttural growls—the same way her sister did with Black Francis when she was with The Pixies.
A full album may be preferable—however, this EP provides a brilliantly perfect feedback loop of realization, alienation, rage and a universe-always-wins apathy. The first track, “Wait,” is simply the struggle of keeping your head above the filth. On the song “Same Face In A Different Mirror,” you realize that no matter what happens, or wherever you place yourself, you are always the same person. The track “Wheel Of Fortune” is the match that hits the powder keg—the song ignites pretty quickly. The song is about a cult-like, Judgment Day cleanse, with Casey and Deal repeating the same doomsday phrase: “Water as commodity / All is comedy / Acts of God / Acts of purse-milking apostles / Pull yourselves up your bootstraps is impossible / I decide who lives and who dies.” This rhythm goes on for five verses. “The flea / The fetid pool / The sinkhole / The asshole / Who thinks he thinks / He thinks he knows all answers / Wrath for sale and it is always Christmas / I decide who lives and who dies.” You see the pattern here.
The final song is an “I don’t give a fuck any longer” anthem—the cosmic shrug after being kicked in the teeth. “The future feels like the past / I lost all my keys / The lock has defeated me / You win again.” Casey gives us another repeated phrase announcing defeat to the universe. “45 pills and no routine / Perfect days of polite company / Pull that sheet right over me / You win again.” We are all locked up in our self-imposed cages with no chance of escape. Don’t worry, this album isn’t about defeat—it’s not about understanding the world, either. It’s not about fixing the fucking thing, or wanting to for that matter. It’s not about hating the people around you, or finding love during the times of our destruction. What it might be about is understanding who you are, being human and keeping your head above it all. Whatever existential nonsense I can come up with, in the end, Protomartyr’s Consolation is a legitimate album and a must in the summer-record release cycle. –Russ Holsten