ALBUM REVIEW: Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent

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Protomartyr immediately stood out from the rest of the anguished post-punk pack when they first emerged four years ago with their debut album All Passion No Technique. They went from strength to strength over their next two albums, twisting Joe Casey’s mantra rants over caustic punk, dark indie guitars and tumbling drums before arriving at their most realised set of recordings to date.

Relatives In Descent stands as their most exploratory and wide-ranging album in that they’ve pulled apart their sound, and reconstructed it with the same elements but a new and revitalised sound. Greg Ahee’s guitar is less all-encompassing. Now it slashes with intent on ‘Here Is The Thing’, spirals in woozy circles on ‘My Children’ and sparkles with chiming funk stabs in ‘Corpses in Regalia’. That diversity allows the rhythm section to conjure all manner of grooves; from the rapid fire jerkiness of opener ‘A Private Understanding’ to the catchy melodic swagger of ‘Caitriona’ and the taut post-punk propulsion of ‘Don’t Go To Anacita’. Elsewhere there’s the introduction of subtle strings and synths that take the songs to endlessly intriguing places.

Joe Casey is often the focal point of Protomartyr with his nihilistic blue collar vibe and barking vocal delivery akin to a transatlantic Mark E. Smith. Here he maintains the speak/sing/howl approach but lyrically he’s followed the lead of the rest of the band and upped his game. Thematically the album takes a look at contemporary America under the mismanagement of Trump and the state of society that Casey’s witnessed from tour van windows and coast to coast trips. It paints a dystopian vision of gluttony, excess and despair but you can still hear the glimmer of hope and humanity in the songs, framed and enhanced by the life-affirming creative intellectualism of Protomartyr.

Chris Familton

Read our recent interview with Joe Casey of Protomartyr

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INTERVIEW: Protomartyr

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LOUD NOISE AND FLOWING ALCOHOL

Protomartyr’s frontman Joe Casey calls in from Detroit, MI to tell Chris Familton about the band’s new album, new record label and where that voice of his came from.

Protomartyr are already four albums deep into their recording career, all in the space of five years. It’s the sign of a band riding a wave of creativity and a relentless work ethic but, as Joe Casey explains, it is also about keeping the ball rolling and building on the success of each new album and tour.

“It’s definitely about keeping the momentum going. I can’t figure out how bands can take five years between albums. The space between this and the last has been the longest just because it was the most touring we’ve done. When that’s over and you go home you may as well get stuck in and write new stuff. Hopefully that will be the way forward but I think we’ll be touring this record more than the last one,” Casey predicts.

Relatives in Descent is another stage in the evolution of a band who sounded brash and chaotic on their debut album All Passion, No Technique. Now there’s a clearer attention to detail in the sound and structure of their songs, led by guitarist Greg Ahee, but also a result of working with a new producer.

“I think we always have to have the sound change. It helped recording with the producer Sonny DiPerri out in Los Angeles because he’s very good at sonically capturing things and he was always working and working harder than any producer we’ve worked with,” says Casey. “Our guitar player had some ideas going in, including violins and a different synth sound and I think it worked out really well,” he enthuses. “When he first said he wanted violins on it I had no idea what he was talking about but when we heard it come to fruition it sounded great.”

Casey’s resigned bark and conversational vocal delivery blends post-punk, spoken word and dissonant punk howling and with Protomartyr it developed out of figuring out how to be heard in a small room with loud noise and flowing alcohol. “At the time we were pretty drunk,” laughs Casey. “At the start it was mostly to make noise and have a good time all of the time. It developed from our early practice space which was basically a concrete box and I had to find a way to cut through the guitar and noise and a very sharp vocal attack seemed to work best. I have a very limited range and it’s about knowing what I can do with it, to fit into the songs the right way and not ruin them.”

Casey’s pride in the new album is evident, and their step up from the small label Hardly Art to the large UK indie label Domino means that they’ll be able to promote their music to a much wider audience, including, hopefully, some live shows in Australia in 2018.

“I’m amazed that we haven’t played Australia yet. From early on it was near the top of our list of places to get to, so we better be touring Australia some time in the next year. If it doesn’t happen next year the band is breaking up!”

Read our review of Relatives In Descent

ALBUM REVIEW: Gold Class – Drum

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Gold Class seemed to hit the ground running when they released their debut album It’s You in 2015 and backed it up with urgent and emotional shows centred around the controlled drama and tension of singer Adam Curley. On their new album Drum they’ve cemented and built on their already impressive post-punk sound.

Control is the order of the day on Drum. The songs feel more strongly anchored and though the sonic tension is still tightly wound, they approach it with greater poise and an assured management of space and dynamics in the songs. Gareth Liddiard (The Drones) produced the album and he’s replaced some of the instrumental coldness of their debut with a warm and organic production that sounds more like spring than winter.

The early singles Twist In The Dark and Rose Blind set the standard for bristling, brooding angular guitar rock but dig a little deeper and there are some other album tracks that really excel. Trouble Fun rolls along on restrained melodies and gently crashing guitars that sparkle rather than slash. Get Yours highlights the grinding propulsion of bassist Jon Shub – reminiscent of Big Black, Gordons and My Disco, while soaring across it all is Curley’s voice, that stentorian howl of angst and poetic declarations as he grapples with the issues of finding one’s place in the world.

A phrase from Rose Blind sums up the sound of Gold Class as Curley sings about “barricades and ecstasy”. Drum is darkly ecstatic music that sounds both defiant and spirited.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains

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The fascinating evolution of Joshua Homme continues on this, the band’s seventh album. He’s spoken of not wanting them to become a parody of their own original sound and if you rewind back to Regular John, the opening track on their self-titled debut it sounds positively primitive and a million miles away from how they sound now. Back then he was peddling Kyuss mark II but it didn’t take long for the cogs of creativity to start spinning forward, gaining momentum with each new album.

Villains comes at the point where Homme has a fanbase who have grown with him and accept and delight in his darker moodier excursions, equally as much as they pine for the heavy stoner fuzz rock of lore. For the most part Villains eschews the slow and shadowy songs and goes straight for the hips with a kind of glam boogie, rock sound. With Mark Ronson producing, they’ve clearly focused on rhythm and groove, pulling in funk elements and colouring them with effect-laden guitars, handclaps and Homme less in croon mode and embracing his inner pop strut. That isn’t to say it doesn’t rock. The last minute of The Evil Has Landed is prime QOTSA riffage, a straightening of their sound that jolts the listener back to an almost nostalgic place. The way the band have arranged the songs is testament to their ability to add detail in the music. Counter melodies constantly splinter off and collide with one another as the rhythm section tumbles on like a musical robot gone AWOL.

This is bereft of the couple of top-shelf songs it would need to be up there with their best albums but Villains is for the most part a fascinating and dizzying prog rock collision of Devo, ZZ Top and Bowie.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Tropical Fuck Storm – Chameleon Paint

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Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin (The Drones), Lauren Hammel (High Tension) on drums and Erica Dunn (Harmony, Palm Springs) have unveiled the sound of their new band Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a jerky, catchy post-punk song that swaggers and slithers along, sounding like it could collapse at any moment. It’s a glorious collision of chaos and euphoric rock.

The debut TFS 7″ single, “Chameleon Paint” b/w “Mansion Family”, will be released on September 22 as a label collab between TFS Records and Mistletone Records. This limited edition 7” is the first of a series; each 7” featuring an original Liddiard A-side and a B-side cover of “songs we love and wish we had written”. The “Mansion Family” B-side is lifted from Melbourne band The Nation Blue, who released the original less than a year ago. Each 7” will feature phantasmagoric cover art by Montréal artist Joe Becker.

PREORDER

NEW MUSIC: Die! Die! Die! – How Soon Is Too Soon (It’s Not Vintage It’s Used)

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New Zealanders Die! Die! Die! are back with a new album and a new clip for the single ‘How Soon Is Too Soon (It’s Not Vintage It’s Used)’. It’s definitely not as punk driven and intense as some of their earlier material but it’s equally as commanding, drawing on distorted and looped effects and a kind of warmly-detached Bailter Space feel as the song circles around some fine bass playing.

The new album Charm. Offensive. is due out October 6th via the label Banished From The Universe. Preorders are now available from Flying Out.