Protomartyr: Relatives in Descent (Domino) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Relatives in Descent


Sep 27, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey does have a sense of humor, even if on record it may not be “haha” funny. As he speak-sings on his band’s new LP, Relatives in Descent, he wishes there was a better ending to the joke: the poisoned rivers and “vile trumpets” of incongruous noise, evaporating notions of truth, toxic masculinity in police uniforms. His wry view of an absurd American present reveals itself in obscure stories about Elvis being profoundly affected by a vision of Stalin and God in a pair of Arizona clouds. The King later succumbs to life’s rattles on the bathroom floor, of course. Casey’s lyrical gifts allow this story to join a reference to Greek philosopher Heraclitus the Obscure, whose ideas transition effortlessly into a metaphor regarding the Flint water crisis. And it all works, somehow. Casey fits his word puzzles upon Greg Ahee’s searing guitar work, and the steady, relentless rhythm section that often sounds like the Four Horseman in Pere Ubu shirts ready to carry the listener off into the bleak night.

Protomartyr makes dark post-punk music for an era that seems to inch closer to what Casey has been bellowing on about with each passing election cycle. Sights aimed at the white noise bleating any sort of meaningful dialogue, Casey scatters allusions to oligarchy, regalia, and high towers throughout the album. His way with contemporary frustration never gives into self-sympathy; it reflects a point of view that respects the hardscrabble without romanticizing poverty or settling for good-enough. A belief in the everyday people carrying on pushes Relatives in Descent beyond petty complaint, and closer towards perseverance and warmth. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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