Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s weird to try to put the entirety of the Protomartyr record into any category.  For all intents and purposes, there are no true comparisons to Under Color of Official Right, though there are nods here and here.  The album’s refreshing in that it doesn’t ever seem stuck in a genre, rather it’s defined solely on the fourteen songs included in the collection.

When “Maidenhead” kicks things off there are some stabbing guitar parts that reflect the little nuances within the realm of indiepop, but as soon as you hear the voice of Joe Casey, you know that you’re in a darker world, even emphatically pushed there when the cymbals crash behind the pounding rhythm.  It’s a sign that while you listen to UCoOR you’re likely to hear bits and pieces of everything you love, just spun in an entirely original manner.  You just have to go to the next stop on the record, “Ain’t So Simple.”  Casey’s vocals steady the work of the band, but the rest of the group offer this bit of pro to-punk oddity, keeping listeners on their toes.

For me, I think the presence of Joe’s vocals throughout is what really makes this album something to write home about; he seems to work against the approach of his band mates, cooly releasing vocals while they offer their own interpretations of songs.  His lyrics are never rushed, even when the band’s pushing ahead quickly, as they do on the short track, “Pagans.”  Still, somehow his approach to delivery fits for Protomartyr, especially when you take in tunes like “What the Wall Said.” This is a track that feels almost as if J. Casey is singing, as his minimal melody slides nicely into the punishing drum work and the ringing guitars.

If you’re looking to pick up a single you’ve got options though I suggest you go all the way through.  The two singles “Scum Rise” and “Come and See” both are great options, thus they were chosen as the promo tracks.  Personally, I think you’d do just as well to stop at “Violent,” which is the track I think I’ve come back to most often.  This song exemplifies the band’s sound the most to me, with Casey offering a great vocal performance while the drums heavily roll in the background and crisp guitars ring out.  I’ve also taken a liking to “Trust Me Billy,” which offers up the most pop sensible music, for my two cents.

However, your listening experience with Under Color of Official Right will revolve around careful scrutiny of each lyric and each tempo change within the album. No one song stands next to a copy of its predecessor, and each movement sounds fresh, making the whole of Protomartyr sound like a well-oiled machine intent upon creating music on their own terms.  There’s no historic embellishment and no ties to their home; it’s an album living out on its own, the way a great album should.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Scum-Rise.mp3]

Download: Protomartyr – Scum, Rise! [MP3]

Under Color of Official Right is available now from Hardly Art.

 

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