The Agent Intellect
Rating: 8.5 reds and greens out of 10
Protomartyr didn't really win me over until I saw them live, and then everything changed. Like a bolt of lightning straight to my head, all of their recordings went from "that's pretty good" to "holy shit this is my favorite thing in the entire world." With "The Agent Intellect," somehow they got even better and I didn't think that was possible.
Starting with the opener "The Devil in His Youth," the songs always feel like they're trying to jump out of the speakers - so much pent up energy...like force-feeding a fidgety kid a half-dozen Red Bulls and then locking him in a closet. And yet, they hold that restraint, never really breaking through, always teetering on the edge of exploding musically but keeping their shit together, so to speak. The band always gets called post-punk, but they are so much more than that. At their best, Protomartyr are a more melodic version of the Fall, minus the overbearing Napoleonic front man (but retaining his genius). I also get a heavy Jonathan Fire*Eater vibe, which was the more rockin' precursor to the Walkmen. All the other comparisons have their place as well, from Pere Ubu to Les Savy Fav to Joy Division to US Maple, but the Fall is the big one, the important one. They're not a cover band though, don't get that impression - but pretty much everyone is a confluence of those that came before them, and those groups are the building blocks of Protomartyr in my mind.
It took me about half a listen to realize this was going to be one of the best records of the year. Top three almost certainly...maybe even landing my personal top spot. Don't miss out on this one.