Review Summary: Weep!
Robbie Robertson of The Band once famously said (in paraphrase, of course) that a band is either a gathering of „I got a guitar for Christmas, let’s start a band“ kind of wannabes (no matter if they have a certain charm), or a group of actual musicians, professionals and experts coming together to create something. For the world of post-punk, Protomartyr seem to be the prime example of the latter. Their initial direction was the desolated edge of chaos, dissonance and going with their gut. But the time went on and the previously implemented tactics started getting worn off. So the band started putting greater and greater care into the construction of the songs. All the same havoc was there, but more refined, more focused and cleverly constructed. And in such a methodical, calculated manner they came through with what might be one of the best, most surgically tailored post-punk release in a while, Relatives in Descent
. A riveting experience that pretty much archived all the tricks and tropes of the more directly punk side of post-punk and all of its external influences (sans maybe just new wave), while feeding off of them, instead of helplessly drowning. It was an album created by people with all the skill and knowledge of punk and for others to learn from, and it exemplified Robbie Robertson’s idea, as well as the idea that brought the band together in the first place: the stagnation of modern music the members have been ruminating about before banding together for the purposes of reinvention or refreshment of modern punk all those years ago.
Here is the thing, Consolation
is another chapter into the band’s progression as the carefully crafting, smartly writing and instrumentally symbiotic collective. In mere four tracks we are dealt a walloping sound that just rains despair and harshness on us, while simultaneously sounding oddly catchy and even, dare I say, beautiful. It was obvious that it would be once the single, “Wheel of Fortune”, came out. And boy, did it come out swinging, with blasting instrumental arrangement and even more blasting chants of “I decide who lives and who dies!” That song raised goosebumps on many a spine.
“Wait” seems to be built not on a melody or progression, but rather a self-repeating deluge of utter frustration. Some might think it doesn’t flow, but in ugliness is the point. It feels less like a track for your enjoyment, as it does like somebody’s means of letting off steam built up in them over a long period of time. Appropriately, as the already brief track comes to an end, it appears to be ever so slightly slowing down and giving way to new emotions and new moods, as if to say that the steam has been let off and now everything’s fine. Following that is “Same Face in a Different Mirror”, where abrasive irritation is exchanged for just a conscience waking despair. It remains fairly still-tempered, only acknowledging the world’s perils and the state we are all in. Then the already aforementioned “Wheel of Fortune” essentially proclaims that the structures established in the previous two cuts look better smashed up on the floor, while pushing forward a rather bipolar attitude, both animalistic and maiming harshness, then suddenly dropping down into the pit of despair, from which it proceeds to build itself up back into the very disarray it started off with, only to then repeat the process. And oddly logically does “You Always Win” finish the four-tracker up with a defeatist anthem that, had it different, non-noisy arrangement, could pass on as a completely different genre (I’m thinking something like blues). It is a purely downer track and any pleasure derived feels unearned, but still almost stunning in its subtle, subtle beauty.
In essence, Protomartyr have come forth with another stellar release of songs that strike as both simple and direct, but also deeply complex and methodical. They don’t preach of today’s climate, but rather sorrowfully and almost with hidden humour admit to its state. Both ridiculing, but also trying to awaken their listeners, who seem to think they’re better off living in a hole. And with care and viciousness they play every chord, clack every drum and write every lyric for the people, but intending to verbally and musically punch them out.
Give them a chance; they’re just trying to reach you.