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Protomartyr - "Relatives In Descent" | Album Review

protomartyr cover.jpg

by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)

The truth isn’t what it used to be. For all the good things the internet, along with advances in cameras and computers have provided, they’ve also made it incredibly easy to forge, lie, make-up, and deceive. It’s increasingly difficult to know if what you’re reading online is reliable. And even if it is, those currently in power have shown it’s easy enough to just not accept it. So what if it’s true? Just call it fake news and refuse to accept it.

Protomartyr’s music is the truth. At least, their new album Relatives in Descent certainly has the truth on its mind. Say the name of the album out loud and you might wonder if it is descent or dissent? The title also brings to mind the doctrine of relativism. There’s the opening song “A Private Understanding” with its talk of the current world being a fools paradise, where truth hides, scholars are poor, and all we seem to hear are those vile trumpets. There’s also the closer “Half-Sister” with the opening verse about the exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate where truth was the topic.

This is also an album concerned with the world around it. An album that wonders how we live day to day while annihilation is waiting in the wings. Many saw the past eight years as an evolution forward that is now barely holding on. Songs like “Don’t Go to Anacita” and “Male Plague” talk about the growing pains of a society trying to advance itself while there’s still rot underneath the foundation. Where a man-child scumbag is behind the wheel surrounded by men not long for the grave, who cling to the past and fleeting power all in a bid to not confront the inevitable, that their time is over.

By now most ought to know what to expect from a Protomartyr album. The band continues to refine their post-punk sound. The back half of the album contains some of the strongest songs they’ve ever written. They are as tight a unit as ever, working with each other like a well oiled freight train headed for glory. Greg Ahee and Scott Davidson play off each other like a hive mind. Tracks like “My Children” and “Corpses in Regalia” showcase their increased ability to be jangly, yet hook filled. Sparse lines that stick with you. Tracks you find yourself putting on repeat. Protomartyr always had a bit of The Fall to them. Joe Casey does his best Mark E. Smith on “Here’s the Thing.” His references as classical as they’ve ever been. Always more of a man with something on his mind at the end of the bar than a straight forward singer. The band gives his words space and room to be taken hold of and processed. To drive their point right into your inner being. 

What role does music play in our lives anymore? Music is everything to everyone. It’s where we find what’s on the collective minds of society. It’s where we go to escape the troubles of the world. It’s where one always seemed to find the truth about things. But now it seems tainted. The common space of a show has been spoiled as people looking for all of the above are murdered. What can an album like Relatives in Descent offer during these dark times? Does it need to offer anything? Like us, it’s an album that is scared, confused, trying to make sense of senseless things. Relatives in Descent is an album concerned with it all. It’s an album that states what it knows and isn’t afraid to wade into what it doesn’t. It’s the truth.