ALBUM REVIEW: Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today

Protomartyr

Ultimate Success Today

Domino

Once more Protomartyr take the four elements of rock ’n’ roll – guitar bass drums and vocals, and twist, caress and mangle them into a new version of the band’s ever-evolving sound. On their fifth album that sound is more urgent, disillusioned and anxious amid the record’s dystopian assessment of modern America.

There’s a desperate, pleading quality to singer Joe Casey’s words and the band complement and elevate his voice perfectly. With thrilling sonic veracity they lay down high velocity, post-punk textures, with balanced amounts of nuance and noise. 

Jazz legend Jameel Moondoc guests on alto sax as well as other horn and cello players. On ‘June 21’ the female voice of Half Waif is a symbiotic foil to Casey’s wearied mantras as they work up a clanging krautrock noise. ‘Processed By The Boys’ documents the insidious creep of authoritarianism, the brilliant rush of ‘Michigan Hammers’ rails against exploitation for financial gain, while closer ‘Worm In Heaven’ is Casey looking back from the other side, contemplating one’s legacy.

There’s a lot to bum out the listener on this record yet musically it’s full of life and life-affirming creative protest. It’s a band finding new and thrilling ways to channel their music and convey their hopes and fears. It’s a full-blooded state of the nation address from the heart and soul.

Christopher Familton

NEWS: Golden Fang release the first single from their new album

Sydney band Golden Fang announce the release of ‘Don’t Take Your God To Town’, the first single from their fourth studio album, Here. Now Here. (produced by Jay Whalley of Frenzal Rhomb), due out on August 7th, 2020.

Golden Fang, a melodic guitar band that captures the joys and contradictions of life in Sydney’s Inner West, are an indie rock group in the truest sense – independently releasing their own unique blend of rock music since 2014.

Cast an ear back across the last three decades and you’ll hear the influence of the Pixies, The Drones and Straitjacket Fits mixing sonically with the dirty grooves of the Bad Seeds and The Cruel Sea. Like local Sydney acts such as Peabody, Bluebottle Kiss and Crow, Golden Fang are a band that know how to harness poetry and visceral rock ’n’ roll.

Receiving its world premiere on UK indie website Backseat Mafia, ‘Don’t Take Your God To Town’ announces its arrival with clanging guitar chords and a primitive rhythm before it blossoms into sweet and reticent vocal and guitar melodies. Musically there’s both a tumbling swagger and a haunting shoegaze quality, courtesy of the guest vocals of artist Donna Amini, that gives it a beguiling, contradictory sound.

‘Don’t Take Your God To Town’ is in tune with bands such as the Pixies, Nick Cave and even a touch of the Tindersticks – you get the picture: intelligent, driving music with a touch of gothic grit and a hint of late night smoky bars, a squinting eye and clenched teeth. Melodic malevolence at its finest. Golden Fangs indeed.”
– 
Arun Kendall (Backseat Mafia)

Of the song, singer/guitarist Carl Redfern says, “‘Don’t Take Your God To Town’ was a song that took me a while to write. It started out specifically being about a dysfunctional personal relationship but eventually ended up being less specifically a dark groove and meditation on the feeling of dread and hopelessness I, and I’m sure many people, feel when looking at the seemingly endless parade of grifters and corrupt fanatics that infest social media and public life. The abandonment of reason in the denial of climate change, the horror-show of border policing and the sobering realisation that “we’ve” lost all these battles.”

From the melancholic, melodic classicism of opener ‘Clouds Go Round’ to the gritty power-pop of ‘Bad Actors’, the cowbell suburban hoedown of ‘Cowboy For Love’ (a love song dedication to good friend and confidant of the band – Jo Meares) to the punk rockabilly rave of ‘Jonny Your Money’s No Good’ and on through the dark gothic dissonance of ‘Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s Dunedin 1989’ and the wandering autumnal psychedelia of ‘Gold Chains And Card Games’ – the range and depth on display across Here. Now Here. marks it as a cohesive statement of modern Australian guitar rock.

In recording sessions at his Pet Food Factory studio in Marrickville, NSW, during Australia’s black summer of 2020, producer Jay Whalley (of Frenzal Rhomb)has captured the sound of a band that doesn’t hide its rough edges. It celebrates the energy and swagger of their live shows and the artful belligerence of Redfern’s lyrics and delivery. The earthy quality of his voice and questioning lyrics add a layer of irreverence and intimacy to the music as it weaves and crashes around him.

“It’s the first album we’ve done where the line up has had a sense of stability about it and where we were writing and working on the songs with an eventual album being the main focus while putting the songs together,” explains Redfern. “For Here. Now Here. we allowed ourselves a bit more time so that we could get things as we wanted them rather than how they ended up on the day! In that regard I think we can say it’s our most considered album.”

“Musically the album has a harder or darker edge than our previous work but draws water from some of the same wells as we have on previous albums with songs about anxiety, personal reflection and nostalgia with a healthy dash of humour thrown in. We cycle through lots of songs pull them to pieces, chop them up and mould them till we’re left with a collection of tunes that everyone is happy with. We’re kind of like a rock n roll Rotary Club,” grins Redfern.

NEW MUSIC: Chappaqua Wrestling – Football

Brighton UK duo Chappaqua Wrestling make a bold dash for indie guitar heaven on their new single ‘Football‘.

Chiming guitar chords ring out, stepping through a melody that conjures up the sound of New Zealand indie rock of yesteryear, the skewed pop-nugget quality of Sonic Youth’s most accessible moments and the melodic brilliance of Australia’s Underground Lovers. The jangle is balanced by a warm guitar fuzz while a keening, nonchalant vocal rides the sonic wave.

Great stuff all round from Charlie Woods and Jake Mac, who have clearly also been influenced by fellow countrymen on labels such as Creation Records.

NEW MUSIC: The Earnest Spears – Liar

Straight outta the gates come The Earnest Spears with four-to-the-floor drums, wired, frantic, distorted and heavily reverbed guitar that flails and hammers in equal amounts. The vocals are pretty much indeciperable but hey, it’s all about the energy and the post-hardcore, psych-punk riff and pummel on ‘Liar‘, the first of a run of singles the Worcester, UK group have got coming in 2020.

Last year the quartet released their debut EP Sincere and Intense Conviction.

If you dig IDLES, Refused, METZ, Shame etc then these guys might be up your alley too.

NEW MUSIC: Azu Tiwaline – Izen Zaren

Today we’ve got a new track from the Sahara and El Djerid region in the south of Tunisia. Azu Tiwaline is a producer who blends dub-influenced and psychedelic desert electronica that moves and flows with a real fluidity and sense of spirit.

Izen Zaren‘ is a track that comes from the second part of her 2020 album Draw Me A Silence Part II (check out Part I HERE) and since then she’s also released the new Magnetic Service E.P.

There’s a wonderful techno minimalism to her sound. Dark and precise, heavily percussive and spacious and intimate at the same time. The atmosphere she builds across the track is both tribal and sci-fi as the sound-effects spark and scatter across the stereo spectrum, above the winding hypnotic melodies and ominous percussive march – of which ultimately is a soulful sound built on amazing sonic architecture.

NEW MUSIC: Tom Ashbrook – Oaktrees

Ambient and (neo)classical compositions can often tread a fine line, evaporating into the ethereal realm or overstating their grandeur. Both extremes lack the required balance of satiating the heart and the mind. In the hands of auteurs such as Nils Frahm, Brian Eno and Harold Budd, music of this ilk can blossom and sway with the most subtle of transitions and adjustments – and it’s those qualities we’re always looking for when we’re hunting out new artists and compositions.

Tom Ashbrook, a British composer, fulfils and exceeds the criteria on this new track ‘Oaktrees’, the third single released from his new EP Sensibus. You can hear the mechanics of his playing and the surrounding sonic detritus in the air. Soft synth pads widen the textural qualities of the piece and summon both the immersive sensation of being underwater and in space. Drift and a poetic sense of flotation being the common factor.

NEW MUSIC: Abracadabra – Dirty Pan

There’s a wonderfully deadpan, stylised quality to this new single from Oakland CA duo Abracadabra (duo Hannah Skelton and Chris Niles). It’s pure 80s synth pop – the good kind where robots and fashion were the future, Kraftwerk were kings and neon was a colour.

There’s also a playfulness to the music of ‘Dirty Pan’, a day-glo utopian sound built on lush washes of keyboards such as The Fairlight CMI and pulsing, robotic drums. It’s like Stereolab and Cabaret Voltaire jamming on the international space station.

Many of the songs reflect upon our fragility as humans, our inability to predict or control the future, and the struggle to remain stable despite the chaos of urban life on a deteriorating planet.”

Abracadabra’s self-titled debut album will be out on July 24 via Anniversary.

SPECIAL SOUNDS FOR STRANGE TIMES: Romy Vager (RVG)

Over the last few months, one of the things many people have been turning to during periods of isolation during the pandemic is music. Music for distraction, companionship, solace and joy. Whatever the reason, putting on a favourite album or discovering something new that pulls you in and hits the spot, intellectually or emotionally, can be a great and wonderful experience. In this series we check in with musicians, journalists and broadcasters to see what has inspired repeat listening and provided some special sounds for these strange times.

RVG have always garnered great reviews but they’ve hit the jackpot with the recent release of their album Feral, gaining stellar reviews locally and internationally. Romy Vager, the creative force behind RVG (Romy Vager Group) kindly took the time to give us an insight into what records she’s been listening to and loving over the last few months.

Read our review of Feral.

“On Feral, Vager’s dissection of how it feels to be sidelined and disenfranchised is treated poetically and ultimately there’s a sense of hope and resilience that rises from the near perfect musical backdrop.”

Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains (2019)

“I’ve been forced to watch my friends enjoy ceaseless feasts of schadenfreude”. That’s a magic line, it’s a line Leonard Cohen could’ve written. The whole album is killer but those first three tracks, they’re like Harry Dean Stanton smoking bongs with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. 

I really also love the song ‘She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger’. I feel that one in my soul. Sometimes it feels as if some people are Eloi and some are Morlocks and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it. 

Daisy Chainsaw – Eleventeen (1992)

I’ve been listening to this again because it reminds me of a dear friend who passed away recently and who I always thought was the personification of this record. She liked this band and I feel the connection to her when I play it. Music’s good for that. I love how unhinged this record sounds. It’s like nothing else. I love the childlike language of it. It’s like a fucked up Alice In Wonderland but in a good way, not in a Tim Burton way. 

The Kinks – Face To Face (1966)

I keep thinking about when we were in London, we went to listen to Ray Davies in conversation at Rough Trade. You had to buy his new record to speak to him afterwards so instead we just stood in the corner and silently stared at him. We were in awe. I mean there was THE Ray Davies. He’s better than the fucking Beatles! 

Every Kinks record before 1974 is my favourite record but Face to Face is hitting me the hardest in quarantine. ‘Too Much on my Mind’ is the song I keep singing to myself in the shower. I love the simplicity of it, it’s beautiful and it’s true.

Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive (2019)

“He’s dead, yeah, he died. Can’t you remember? That’s what you’re here for”. I love that delivery. Adelaidians have a similar deadpan reaction to death as British people do. People from the East Coast are taken back by it. I guess that’s why they think we’re all serial killers.

This record has barely left the turntable since December of last year. One thing I’ve learnt about punk music, if you don’t have a touch of humility and tenderness then it’s just vanity and posturing. Unrelated but there’s a line from The Residents that says “ignorance of your culture is not considered cool”. I can almost hear that sentence in Jason’s voice. I love this band.