Archive for the ‘Protomartyr’ Category


At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

One of the things that I love about Lars, and this list is a great example, is how effortlessly multicultural he is.  He doesn’t listen to music because it’s from somewhere, he listens to music wherever it;s from because he likes it.  So this band, with the decidedly English-sounding name Lonely Leary is actually from China.  Lars says that the

The excellent label Maybe Mars documents the current Chinese underground music scene, from the psych-rock of Chui Wan and surfy shoegaze of Dear Eloise to P.K. 14, Beijing’s experimental rock pioneers.

Lonely Leary is a post-punk band which sounds like they would fit right in with Protomartyr or even The Fall, Sonic Youth or Joy Division.  The fact that they are from China and sing in Chinese doesn’t affect the tone and overall feel of the music, it somehow makes it more intense (to my ears).

Lars describes their debut album as one “where noise needles into perversely kitschy surf riffs and hoarsely barked punctuation marks.”  Although I hear less kitschy and more Dead Kennedy’s guitar and feedback noise.

The sounds they achieve throughout the album are great.  “Flaneur” opens the disc with a screaming feedback followed by a rumbling bass.  There’s some great guitar lines from Song Ang (which remind me of Savages) and then Qiu Chi barks his dissatisfaction through to a satisfyingly Dead Kennedys-ish chorus.  There’s even some Savages-esque chanting as the song squeals to and end.

This is great stuff.

[READ: January 4, 2019]  “Father”

Here is a new year and a new essay from Sedaris that perfectly mixes emotional sadness and hilarious light-heartedness.

The night before his fathers 95th birthday, his father turned in the kitchen and fell.  David’s sister and brother-in-law discovered him the next day and brought him to the hospital.  They felt the most disturbing thing was his disorientation, including getting mad at the doctor: “you’re sure asking a lot of questions.”  He was lucid the following day, but he was quite weak.

David was in Princeton on the night his father fell [at a show that I could have been at–we opted not to go this year].   He called his father and said that he needed him to be alive long enough to see trump impeached.

A few months later, his father moved into a retirement home.  David and Hugh visited and at first he seemed out of it, but hr recognized both of them instantly.  The thing was that he was no injured.  He had tried to move his grandfather clock (one of the prized possessions he brought to the home) and it fell on him (for real).  Many family members called the clock Father Time, so David said to Hugh “When you’re 95 and Father Time literally knocks you to the ground, don’t you think he’s maybe trying to tell you something?” (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: November 30, 2018] Protomartyr

Protomartyr’s second album Under Color of Official Right was one of my favorite records of 2014.  I loved the noisy music that the band made while singer Joe Casey yelled his abrasive ideas at us.

They had an interesting look too, with the band looking like, as I heard described, three kids who called up their old hard-ass teacher to jam with them.

Casey looks not unlike some random drunk guy who felt compelled to get up on stage and just yell at people.  He always had a beer in his hand and had at least one in his coat pocket.  He stared us down, but also made a couple of funny jokes.

The crowd was absolutely devoted though and the slam dancing was fast and furious (despite the sign at the entrance which said there was to be done of that).  (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: November 30, 2018] Preoccupations

Preoccupations is a band from Calgary Alberta Canada.  They were originally called Viet Cong. They put out a stunning album called Viet Cong and then met all kinds of grief for the name (shows cancelled, etc), so they changed it to Preoccupations.  It’s amazing that a band as minor and indie as them would get so much grief, but whatever.

The name is different but the sound is mostly the same–abrasive angular guitars, washes of synths and/or feedback and what I will describe as lead drums, because the power and rhythm of Mike Wallace often distinguishes the songs from each other.

But despite the abrasiveness, they are not just a band of noise.  There is melodicism in many parts (interspersed with great unusual sounds from both guitars).  Plus the lyrics are really good as well. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: November 30, 2018] Rattle

When I got my ticket for Protomartyr, I had not heard of opening band Rattle, a duo from Nottingham England.

When I got to the stage I saw that there were three drums kits up there.  I assumed that there would be minimal time between bands playing, which was true.  One thing I didn’t realize right away is that the drumset that was set up closest to me actually had two stools, one on either side of the bass drum.

It turns out that Rattle is a duo that plays exclusively drums and percussion.  And they share the drum kit and cymbals.  It was mesmerizing and fascinating.  I especially loved near the end when each drummer hit the same cymbal. (more…)

Read Full Post »

smmaSOUNDTRACK: PROTOMARTYR-Tiny Desk Concert #492 (December 4, 2015).

protoPromtomartyr’s Under Color of Official Right has been one of my favorite albums of the last few years.  Joe Casey’s vocals are more or less spoken (and angry) while the music is propulsive and rocking.  Sometimes punk, sometimes something else entirely.  It’s a weird pairing but it worked wonderfully.

I hadn’t heard their new album yet–I am a little afraid that they’re going to mess with the perfection of their second album–but as soon as I saw they did a Tiny Desk Concert I had to check it out.

“Singer” Joe Casey stands at the front.  He wears a suit and sunglasses (evidently he has some stage fright issues) and he barely moves.  And then there’s the rest of the guys–each wearing all black, looking like the backing band for someone else entirely (the bassist has super long blond hair).  And yet, man, do they play great together.

The band plays three songs.  The first two are from their new album.  “Why Does It Shake?” has a cool interesting bass line and sharp, occasional guitar chords along with drums that are mostly played along the rim.  The song unexpectedly slows down for a middle section.  And all along, Casey asks his tough, threatening lyrics.  The song is over 4 and a half minutes, perhaps one of their longest tracks.

The second song, “”Devil In His Youth” is a fast propulsive song with a great catchy riff that leads to the simple spoken chorus of “the devil in his youth.”  This song is much more familiar in terms of Protomartyr songs and is only two and a half minutes long.

The final song comes from their debut album, No Passion All Technique (which is hard to get and which I’ve never heard). The song doesn’t sound drastically different from the others, but you can hear a different tone, perhaps a little less abrasive?

Naturally for a curmudgeonly band, they don’t play anything from the album I love, but this set is really good nonetheless.  And yes, it may be time to investigate the new album.

[READ: October 28, 2015] Super Mutant Magic Academy

I saw this book when we were visiting Toronto and I wrote down the title to check it out.  I didn’t know anything about it, and didn’t realize that I knew the work of Jillian Tamaki from several great graphic novels

I also had no idea that this was actually a long in progress webcomic that Tamaki has put into book form.

And finally, I didn’t expect it to be a series of one page funny strips that tell an overarching story. (more…)

Read Full Post »

boughSOUNDTRACK: PROTOMARTYR-Under Cover of Official Right (2014).

martyrMy favorite description of Protomartyr is that the three younger guys ran into their old high school math teacher at a bar and asked if he wanted to sing with their band.  Protomartyr are a heavy band from Detroit (and none of the above is true about them, but check out the picture below for how true that seems).

The lyrics are dark, literary and sometime quite funny.  The music is a sort of post punk.  The drums are amazing with all manner of complex patterns.  The guitar is angular and precise, eking out notes and then blasting away on gorgeous ringing chords.  The bass plays patterns–not simple notes.  His is a great counterpoint to the guitar.  And then there’s the voice.  Gruff, worldly, knowledgeable and occasionally angry.  But mostly he sings in a kind of spoken word style, telling of his distrust with…well, whaddya got?

My CD did not come with a lyrics sheet (although I believe the LP does), so I don’t exactly know the words to these songs.  I can certainly guess though.

The disc opens with a sinister chord that slowly rises, only to be replaced by a jangly open guitar chord and then a very lengthy riff.  And then the deadpan vocals comes in.   “Shade goes up shade goes down, one of my dead moves.” And that sets the tone (that song along with many other is a reference to a novel: in this case Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square). I love the way the second song “Ain’t So Simple” opens with an interesting drum rhythm and these great lyrics, “Hello there, you are all witnesses to a kind of confrontation between me and these three men.”  The lyrics are basically an attack on the other guys in the band: “this thing that sits behind me: jumped up homunculus, and yet he sings so sweetly.”  The guitar is quiet and complex with an interesting riff.  Then the bridge bursts forth with all kinds of chaos and noise and a faster riff.  The song ends somewhat positively, “guess I will keep him around, until the next song.”  And it ends with the same drums that opened the song.

Most of the songs are just over 2 minutes.  “Want Remover” is pummeling rock, heavy and distorted.  “Trust Me Billy” reintroduces a spiralling riff but with a heavier drum.  “Pagans” is only 1:11, with a very sparse sound.  “What the Wall Said” slows things down (it clocks in at 3:11).  It has a slow intro that is mostly bass.  When the chiming guitars come in, the drums follow and the songs picks up speed.  It has one of my favorite lyrics: “What will you miss? Alice in Chains played on repeat–not feeling great, you’re 20%.”  Followed by morning ringing guitars.

“Tarpeian Rock” is set to a cool bass line.  It’s basically a list of people who should be “thrown from the rock” “greedy bastards, emotional cripples, gluten fascists” etc.  “Bad Advice” opens with a smacking drum sequence and ringing guitars.  It’s angular and prickly until about half way through when it suddenly slows down with the simple “bad advice” chorus.  “Son of Dis” is a blistering punk song.  Barely over a minute, it is a relentless blast.

There’s something about the guitar sound on “Scum, Rise” that is so unguitar-like, I’m totally intrigued by it.  And the repeated simple chorus of “scum…rise” is pretty hard not to sing/speak along to.  “I Stare at Floors” is another fast rocker.  “Come and See” has more great weird chords (with a vibrato put on them for extra weirdness.”  It’s another fantastic song, with the chorus introducing a brand new drum sequence and a super catchy but dark chorus: “And I’ll try to live defeated, come and see the good in everything.”  I can’t decide which section of the song I like better.  Well, maybe it’s the repeated third part where the drums come bashing alive to really emphasize that section.

“Violent” is another slower song, with a lonesome riff and sparse drums.  The vocals are so almost-flat that it makes the lyrics “if it’s violent…good” seem even more dark than they might otherwise.  “I’ll Take That Applause” opens with a sample of someone singing something, maybe?  Garbled, rather creepy sounding voices introduce a big ringing chord.  The song introduces a piano buried under the chorus of “nothing ever after.”  And then you press play again and listen to the whole thing again.

I simply can’t stop listening to this album.


[READ: September 15, 2014] Bough Down

Karen Green is a visual artist and poet.  She was married to a man who hung himself, and this collection address that horrific incident almost exclusively.

Green’s poems aren’t structured like poems (meaning that they are blocks of text and have no concern for line breaks or rhyme scheme).  Nevertheless the words she has used are quite powerful and evocative and do everything that good poetry should do.

Interspersed within the poems are small images.  Most of the images are cut up pieces of text arranged but also obfuscated by what looks like a gauzy white paint (in the same way that the book has a gauzy white slip cover (nicely done)).  I don’t know what the actual size of her prints is, but I wish they were bigger in the book.  It’s really hard to see the details that are clearly there.  And I know that hiding is part of the point, but if it were bigger it would certainly be easier to understand.  I’m fascinated by her use of dollar bills as well as other tiny objects (fingerprints? stamps? boxes?).

Most of her poems are untitled; those which are titled have “jazz standards” as titles.  Like “summertime and the living” or “let’s call the whole thing off.”  This jibes nicely with one of the “characters” in the poems, a woman called “the jazz lady.”  For indeed, although I’m reading this as a series of poem, there is so much continuity between poems, that it almost reads like a novel as well.  If nothing else, there seems to be time passing between the poems.  And while the story itself is unfinished, it does imply that things will be moving forward.

The pieces about the jazz lady are interspersed with the stories about “you.”  The jazz lady “is in first or third person.  She is keeping secrets and everyone who loves her is tired of them.”  In “Black and blue and” it begins “No one knows how the jazz lady ended up in the hospital again.”  I took the jazz lady to be Green, or perhaps just someone else Green knew. (more…)

Read Full Post »