Protomartyr, ‘Under Color of Official Right’ (Hardly Art)
Protomartyr hails from Detroit, but its music is a far cry from the garage rock, soul and techno traditions of its once-thriving hometown.
“Under Color of Official Right,” out Tuesday, is the foursome’s first LP for Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art, and second since forming three years ago. The title refers to extortion by public officials, and along with tracks like “Violence,” “Bad Advice” and “Scum, Rise!”, this is a bleak urban landscape.
“Don’t feel nothing for anyone,” singer Joe Casey mumbles dispassionately on “Maidenhead,” the opener, setting the tone. “Don’t feel no love for anything.”
Like first-generation post-punks The Fall and Pere Ubu — influential here — Protomartyr boasts an ornery frontman, Casey, and a no-nonsense rhythm section, bassist Scott Davison and drummer Alex Leonard.
Greg Ahee’s guitar work, however, is the difference-maker, forgoing the genre’s typically dry tones for resounding open chords, rapidly-strummed octaves and surf-inflected leads, lending welcome contrast to the troubled world the songs inhabit.
Since its 2007 inception, Hardly Art has signed fun groups, like Seattle’s Tacocat, as well as more brooding ones, like Olympia’s Broken Water.
A post-punk band with unusual depth and variation, Protomartyr falls somewhere in between. They might make you dance, but they’ll definitely make you think.