Detroit’s wall of sonic destroying post-punk rock extraordinaire Protomartyr brought on the blaring wail at Music Hall of Williamsburg while marking of the release of The Agent Intellect, their third and finest work to date and so damned darkly delectable I just can’t stop listening to it. Lead singer Joe Casey plays with a group of guys roughly ten years his junior, having assembled with them while already in his mid-30’s with almost no prior musical experience. He began popping on stage back then to support guitarist Greg Ahee and drummer Alex Leonard almost 8 years ago in their previous duo outfit Butt Babies, and before long, a whole new movement of sound was formed. Drawing on many late 70’s sonic punk pioneering junkies like Joy Division, Wire, the Fall, and Pere Ubu, they manage to fall into a wonderful new mixture of early British post punk mixed with some of that pure American Motor City power-rocking fever like that of MC5 and White Stripes that both incites, emotes, rocks, and even feels right at home with newer punk gazer outfits like Iceage and Eagulls. So, as stunning as the wall of penetrating sound they create is, it is still Casey’s stunning baritone power that rules the potent sound waves. So yes, I can’t help but be reminded of the throat action of recent English import George Mitchell of the Eagulls, although his voice could easily be also compared to veteran throats like Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Mark E. Smith of the Fall, and Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds.
This great new band also grabbed a couple amazing and similarly loud and in charge bands to open the show. The Brooklyn trio Beech Creeps was first up with a raw, blistering, grimy, and bold sound that is easy to get mystified by. They have some very sprawling climaxes to to their songs like violent storms exploding onto shore with elements of modern blasters like Yeasayer, Japanther, Lighning Bolt, and Japandroids. Their new 7-inch “Creeps Can’t Swim” is almost out, so take a listen if you can, or better yet, you can even catch their album release at Alphaville on the 23rd.
Then, there is the undeniable kick to the nuts and pimping of the senses that is the DC punk band Priests, although it’s is hard to place them into any one category, and I’m sure that’s the way they like it. Guitarist G.L. Jaguar proved a totally engaging and commanding surf riffing twang to the punk element while drummer Daniele Daniele and bassist Taylor Mulitz proved to be the Ajax rocket of power that really lifts off a killer sound. Still, much like the headliner, this band is totally propelled to other levels by their front person, who in this case happens to be one of the most powerful frontwomen I have seen in any band in perhaps ever, Katie Alice Greer showing herself to be a towering and totally commanding vocalist. There is no demeaning or ignoring her presence on stage for many reasons, first and foremost her voice, which growls with a guttural intensity that makes you tremble in fear, shout in unbridled anger, and creates serious libido supercharge.
Their message is spelled out loud and clear: don’t trust the corrupt government, hate the corporate overlords who control our every living day, overturn the over-commercialization that threatens to amuse us all to death, and a calling to change the degrading patriarchal culture we live in. It’s a powerful revolutionary battle cry that rings out like hellfire into the audience and is downright stunning to witness on stage. Still, their ability to personify style is an interesting contrast to that, as Greer is always wearing some fashion that is really off-tha-hook and her ability wrap a lyrical hook around your head while clearly knowing how to work the crowd in a very face-to-face manner is truly stunning. Their EP from last year called Bodies and Control and Money and Power is a disc that really bowled me over, and now hearing new material that will apparently compose their first full-length album, I am really looking forward to watching this band take the World by storm.
When Protomartyr took the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg, I think everyone felt their presence, even if they don’t quite have as much slick style as the previous band. Casey isn’t a terribly engaging live performer, looking like a middle-aged guy who is thrown into the rock n’ roll World, which is really what he is in a nutshell. However, what he has to say, and the power he emotes it with is really worth its weight in gold with every note. With a can of beer clutched tight through most of the show, he lets his subterranean singing to the talking, like a sermon for which the fire burns just under the surface, waiting to explode like a phoenix from the ashes. There is certainly a narrative of violence, emotionally brutal reality, grim landscapes collapsing, sad working class angst, death and decay everywhere, and a generally dark lyrical atmosphere that mixes with that wonderful baritone to produce one of the most compellingly shadowy and gloomy goth sounds since Joy Division.
They played what I do believe was the entirety of the new album, with several songs mostly in the middle of the set, that radiated from their first two releases 2012’s No Passion All Technique and 2014’s Under Color of Official Right. “Why Does It Shake?” was a booming emotional climax for the set proper as a song about noticing the tremors of old age in his Mother’s hands, which is a perfect example of how it can be a heart-wrenching experience to hear these songs, especially in person. Rarely do you get to see or hear such a gut-wrenchingly authentic band, and you really should as it can really cleanse your soul.
Article: Dean Keim