Protomartyr - Under Color of Official Right (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Under Color of Official Right (2014)

Hardly Art

At its foundation, yeah, Protomartyr's a post-punk band: shaded instrumentation; baritone-y, Ian Curtis-style vocals; fairly muted swagger–you know. But the Detroit quartet color their sophomore full-length, Under Color of Official Right, with enough unexpected flourishes that it makes it a fierce and compelling standout of the subgenre withouth conforming too steadfastly to its confines.

By coincidence or design, Under Color of Official Right definitely *feels* like a modern indie rock album. The band has the quirky lyrical bent of their labelmates (or even the National, to an extent), without necessarily sounding anything like those bands, and it plays into the music. They also just exude a pretty loose, punk vibe–cuts like the minute-long "Son of Dis" are imbued with a fuzzy garage punk recklessness, though usually, the more expansive and deliberate the band get, the better they are ("Bad Advice", "Scum, Rise!" and, with the chorus of them all, "Come & See").

The opening lyric of the album finds frontman Joe Casey declaring "Shit goes up, shit goes down" on "Maidenhead"; it's a dry, shoulder-shrugging observation that guides the rest of the record, and it's also the first hook plucked from a seemingly bottomless bag. Hell, "Ain't So Simple" is pretty Television-y, a quick follower with upbeat verses broken up by fits of distortion and more concentrated jamming. Granted, it's hard to make pop culture references without generally sounding at least somewhat unguarded–on "Want Remover". Casey's just deconstructing Judge Mathis, and on "What the Wall Said," he perhaps sarcastically tells someone they're missing out on a time that involves "Alice in Chains / played on repeat." Moments like these are few and far between, admittedly; they probably just stand out because it seems unusual for the style.

With a sense of humor and punk tilt, Under Color of Official Right decidedly makes Protomartyr one of the better acts of its kind going on.