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Baring teeth: Protomartyr live in London

18 July 2016, 10:27 | Written by James Appleyard

There are few bands who covey the decay of their home city as viscerally as Detroit’s Protomartyr.

The Motor City’s steady decline over the past decade has seen its population plummet and the promises of capitalism fail, but Protomartyr have always seemed to find a remedy to all that austerity through the prism of punishing post-punk. And this was exactly what they delivered at London’s Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club tonight (14th July).

There was something entirely apt about the venue, simultaneously acting as an established blue collar refuge from the everyday grind, and a hipster friendly hideaway. As frontman Joe Casey casually strode on stage dressed in a dishevelled shirt and pair of suit trousers, looking like a disgruntled office worker arriving home after a two day bender, Protomartyr seemed to straddle these two worlds with ease as they launched into “Maidenhead”, the weapons-grade opener from their sophomore album Under the Color of Official Right.

What followed was a series of taut, economical spirals of angular guitar and drums underpinning Casey’s laconic delivery. During “Cowards Starve” the line “I’m going out in style” cyclically resonated, as if the words were shooting directly from the lining of Casey’s gut.

As the tightly packed crowd jostled to an incendiary rendition of “The Devil In His Youth”, Casey stood front and centre, staring into the middle distance as if channeling the collective spirits of Wire and Pere Ubu.

Just when everyone thought it was over, Protomartyr returned to the stage to kick out a stompingly hypnotic rendition of “Why Does It Shake?” taken from their latest album The Agent Intellect, the whole thing going down like The Fall wearing steel toe-caps.

Protomartyr have always taken a recalcitrant position to the wider world, but when the lines “I’ll try to live defeated / Come and see the good in everything” are delivered with such unbridled energy, it’s clear there’s also a hopefulness to their music. And in times like these, this is something that’s needed more than ever.


Blues Festival
Cowards Starve
I Forgive You
Dope Cloud
Wine Of Ape
Want Remover
Scum, Rise!
Pontiac 87
Ain't So Simple
The Devil In His Youth
Bad Advice
Uncle Mother's
Feral Cats
The Hermit
Come & See
Why Does It Shake?

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