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Protomartyr - Formal Growth In The Desert (Album Review)

Thursday, 08 June 2023 Written by Jack McGill

Photo: Trevor Naud

Protomartyr have given in and accepted that the past few years have been nothing short of dreadful, and on their new record, the Detroit-reared post-punk band predict that little will change in the foreseeable future. But ‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ also proves to be the perfect vessel through which to express that sentiment, using their unforgiving sound to explore what frontman Joe Casey describes simply as “getting on with life”.

The opening track, Make Way, establishes that despairing attitude with a country stomp that bursts from a callous desert, while Elimination Dances runs away into something altogether more depraved and ritualistic. It boasts a sacrificial theme, alluding to depths that might await us.

On a more grounded note, Fun In Hi Skool is a skittering mid-life crisis where yearning for youthful frivolity in midwestern America overrides any more pressing contemporary concerns. 

Some things never change, though, and Casey’s poetic prose is as refined as ever in this setting. Looking at becoming a lifeless husk he implores us to let ourselves become taken over in Graft Vs. Host—he sounds completely drained, with no further will left to resist. 

A track such as this is so simple that its worldbuilding almost passes you by, providing out of the way pockets of detail to revisit. The metatextual tragedy of characters dubbed Dismas and Dawn is reeled off during Fulfilment Center, with Greg Ahee’s squalling guitars collapsing around their car-turned-coffin. 

‘Formal Growth In The Desert’ is a novel to be read over and over again, where each cog turns the next to reward consumption as a whole, unabridged piece of work. The sonics of previous Protomartyr albums remain unchanged but allow for Casey’s words to shine in a more profound manner than before. 

Protomartyr Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed August 09 2023 - BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Thu August 10 2023 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Fri August 11 2023 - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
Sat August 12 2023 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Thu October 19 2023 - GALWAY Roisin Dubh
Fri October 20 2023 - LIMERICK Dolans
Sat October 21 2023 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Mon October 23 2023 - MANCHESTER YES (The Pink Room)
Tue October 24 2023 - BRISTOL Bristol Trinity
Wed October 25 2023 - BIRMINGHAM Hare And Hounds
Thu October 26 2023 - LONDON Electric Ballroom

Compare & Buy Protomartyr Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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