Protomartyr

Protomartyr @ Picture House Social

Back in 2014, in a typical moment of self-depreciation, Joe Casey, lead singer with Detroit post punks Protomartyr, described their live shows as “30 minutes of a fat guy yelling at you”.

Tonight, at Abbeydale’s Picture House Social, such a summary seems a little unfair: he doesn’t shout that much.

Read any review of Protomartyr and their appearance gets a not altogether complimentary mention. They’ve been described variously as resembling school teachers, lorry drivers and – a reference to the fact Casey, at 39, is a decade older than the rest of the group – “three scared teenagers forced to join a band with their alcoholic uncle”.

Harsh.

But then this is not a live show that needs cheek bones or angular haircuts to timber it. Tonight, here in support of third album The Agent Intellect, the sound is cerebral, urgent, fierce; the songs somehow plotting a propulsive path between dystopian dilapidated doom (well, they do come from Detroit) and life-affirming, awe-inspiring hope.

‘Pontiac 87’ is especially wonderful combining the immediacy of The Walkmen, the lyrical deftness of The Fall and the monochrome of Joy Division; while ‘What The Wall Said’ seeps in, heavy, epic, irresistible.

“This is the first time we’ve played Sheffield,” says Casey at the end. “It will probably be the last,” he adds with a wink.

He’s kidding, and that’s good news. The Sheffielders here would be delighted to see Protomartyr visit again.

Colin Drury




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