In a city full of brilliant people with dead-end jobs and dampened by bitter-cold winters, playing music offers a cheap outlet. Protomartyr's taut, austere rock music was incubated in a freezing Detroit warehouse littered with beer cans and cigarette butts and warmed, feebly, by space heaters. Short songs made for short practices, and the band learned quickly not to waste time. Despite the cold, Protomartyr emerged with a sound that is idiosyncratic but relatable; hooky but off-kilter.
There's a temptation to call it garage-rock, but that doesn't quite fit. With respect to the local predecessors, this isn't the primitive stomp of The Dirtbombs or The Stooges' greasy roar. Punk works, kind of, even if it leaves the hardcore kids confused. Post-punk suggests something too retro; indie rock, something too precious. What Protomartyr is, is "stuck between the cracks." If that's the case, though, they aren't alone. Protomartyr's economical rock elicits comparisons to possible antecedents like Pere Ubu or The Fall as well as local contemporaries like Frustrations or Tyvek (whose frontman Kevin Boyer played bass in an early iteration of Protomartyr). Joe Casey's dry declarative snarl serves as a reliable anchor, granting his bandmates - guitarist Greg Ahee, drummer Alex Leonard and bassist Scott Davidson - room to redefine the band's sonic boundaries. For Protomartyr, inspiration usually arrives in the form of ideas or feelings, more than explicit musical references. By the time the band has shaped it to its needs, the source material is almost unrecognizable.
And so they offer, for your consideration and consumption, Under Color of Official Right, their second record, a truly worthy follow-up to 2012's incredible No Passion All Technique, and their first with Hardly Art, out April 8th. Recorded in a single weekend with Bill Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins (Wolf Eyes, Cass McCombs, Lower Dens, Six Organs of Admittance) at Keyclub Recording Studio in Benton Harbor, MI, the album straddles studio professionalism and punk impulse. As a first salvo from this monumental album, Protomartyr extend forward the declarative, tumbling and tempestuous first single, "Scum, Rise!"