You might operate under the assumption that, four albums in, Detroit-born post-punk outfit Protomartyr might have settled into a groove. It’d be easy to imagine that the group would be demonstratively comfortable and assured in their place in the musical landscape after 2015’s well-received The Agent Intellect firmly placed them on the map. But if the performance Protomartyr delivered at the Moroccan Lounge is any indication, this dynamic quartet can’t be bothered with the easy comforts of mid-tier renown.
On their newest release, Relatives in Descent — an ambitious effort befitting a group that has long resisted the more typical connotations of post-punk — Protomartyr eschews pop and dance oriented forms of the genre, opting instead for a style shading more towards hardcore punk, full of tension and aggression, buoyed by frontman Joe Casey’s layered (if not byzantine) and deft lyricism. The group took the stage at the newly re-opened Moroccan Lounge, bathed in blue and red light. There were no light show antics or tricks to be found, not when the brutal force of Protomartyr’s live show is overwhelming as is, and as conversational and talented a speaker Casey can be, between song banter was at a premium (though he did half-jokingly implore fans to make it to their next gig across state lines in Arizona).
The setlist consisted almost exclusively of songs off of Relatives In Descent, a sign that the band was confident in it’s ability to match the audience’s anticipation without having to rely on older material. But it was clear what songs were closer to the heart of the assembled crowd, as the energy significantly ramped up during songs like “Scum, Rise” and “Why Does It Shake?”. Ears ringing and satisfied, I left the Moroccan Lounge confident that not only was the new venue going to garner the reputation as an “it” place to see bands and artists in a more intimate setting, but that Protomartyr have plenty left in store for their fans on this tour and beyond.
Make sure to catch Protomartyr on tour at the remaining dates below. Also, check out their website and see about purchasing Relatives in Descent and other Protomartyr-related merch!
Words and photographs by Lee Bedrouni.