Music Review

Protomartyr – Formal Growth in the Desert

todayJune 8, 2023 124

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By – Kristi Houk

Recommended if You Like: Pere Ubu, Iceage, The Fall, Dry Cleaning, Viagra Boys

It’s been a weird week. 

New York and other major cities across the U.S. are covered in a blanket of toxic smoke from the Canadian wildfires. The gray/orange, dystopian images are startling to say the least. Admittedly, Protomartyr’s new release, Formal Growth in the Desert has proved an apt soundtrack to the week’s eeriness.

Like all of the Detroit-based, post-punk band’s previous albums, there’s much to unpack on Formal Growth. Out of the gate, the listener is invited in by vocalist Joe Casey’s booming baritone: “Welcome to the haunted earth, the living afterlife where we chose to forget the years of the hungry knife.” And in true Protomartyr fashion, the silky invitation splinters into a raucous chant. Vocally, Casey has a lot in common with fellow Mid-Western front man, Greg Dulli from The Afghan Whigs. Both have the uncanny ability to both seduce and tear you down in one breath.

For me, guitarist Greg Ahee is the star of the album. Talk about layers of sound. His style fluctuates from a loose groove to a blistering, urgent battle cry. I would love to see his set up. The guitar tone is clean but not sterile and often calls to mind Gang of Four’s Andy Gill.  To quote AC/DC: “We roll tonight, to the guitar bite.” Formal Growth is cinematic in scope and hits on a range of themes—loss, finding hope in a hopeless world, and rats (the figurative kind). 

This is music for the disenfranchised, the grieving, the surviving. 

Because aren’t we all?

Available at a records store near you, and in Birmingham at SEASICK RECORDS!!!!

Written by: kristi houk

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