Writer by Billy Beale / Photographer Rob Hadley Indie Images
When Iggy Pop speaks, the wise shut up and listen. I first heard the name Protomartyr growled by Mr Pop on his BBC 6 Music show long ago, as the high priest of rock & roll championed the band from his hometown of Detroit.
Protomartyr’s mixture of clever lyrics and complex arrangements alongside visceral, primal rock grooves is enrapturing and sells you the promise of a great live show, should the day ever come.
When the day did come, the opening act was Rattle from Nottingham. Two percussionists facing one another, stoic and statuesque, layering rhythm upon rhythm under ethereal vocals. The sound is all atmosphere and tension, stacking primordial beats like a conversation in the language of Drum. Keeping track of the various rhythms is like watching lots of plates spinning at different speeds and elevations, trying to concentrate on all of them at once.
With grooves like fossils found on the beach, or some archaeological artifact crafted by human hands and hewn rough by time, Protomartyr shares Rattle’s primeval rhythmic base. The drums are heavy in the mix and shake the room like a bus on a satisfyingly bumpy road.
Frontman Joe Casey looks more than a little bit Bernard Black, disheveled-yet-distinguished with his smart suit jacket, and restrained performance style. His delivery ranges from the ironic venom of Mark E Smith, to the earnest barks of Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage.
Every now and then, something about his mannerism evokes the image of a best man at a wedding, who has broken off in the middle of their speech to get something off their chest.
I especially admire the band’s refusal to perform the encore charade, which we should all have grown past the point of expecting. They acknowledged the expectation, adjusted it to suit them and just played the set. Which is really all we need.
Protomartyr makes intellectual rock music that is in no way lacking the rough edges and vitality you could want in a killer live act. They more than live up to the expectations set by Mr Pop’s recommendation.
For more from the Hare and Hounds take a look at their website: www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk