By MIA CAPOBIANCO
Your Weekend Editor
It was the time of man buns and black Vans. It was the time of High Life tallboys and cheap cigarettes. It was the time to knowingly f**k up your ears for a week. It was Saturday at the Metro Gallery, and Protomartyr was playing.
This Saturday, like so many other Saturdays in Station North, punk fans — myself included — lined the walls of Metro Gallery, eager for feedback and aggressive drumming. The first opening act, Alone Time, delivered just that. Alone Time is a punk outfit from Baltimore.
Their sound is chaotic, math-y and noisy without sounding disordered (which is due, at least partially, to the strength of their drummer). Alone Time’s music is definitely hype, but not overwhelming, which made them the perfect opener for Saturday’s show.
Amanda X, a post-punk trio of female rockers from Philly, took the stage next. Saturday marked their first night opening for Protomartyr (they have several upcoming dates scheduled to play together). The pairing of Amanda X and Protomartyr couldn’t be any more perfect. The three members of Amanda X are unassuming and at times seem to recede with their muffled bedroom pop. But every time I thought they were becoming slightly droning, their bass lines would pick up and Cat Park would put force behind her voice. At times Amanda X has an early 2000s pop-group quality, but these sounds are contrasted with bass-heavy drums and fuzzy guitars. I found Amanda X refreshing and a smart opener for the more-traditionally-punk Protomartyr.
Most contemporary punk fans are familiar with the glory that is Protomartyr. The Agent Intellect, released about a week before the show, is their third studio album. It has already been met with extremely positive reviews; It received an 8.2 on Pitchfork and currently boasts an 86 on Metacritic.
It’s not difficult to see (hear?) why music authorities are responding so positively to the record. It’s undeniably powerful. The instrumentals are approachable and so is lead Joe Casey’s delivery. He often begins tracks on Intellect with an even, straightforward disposition before completely reversing the listener’s expectations; He chants with desperation on “Why Does it Shake?” and repeats a despondent “There’s no use of being sad about it / what’s the point of crying about it” on “Pontiac 87.”
Protomartyr has a way of drawing you in with their no-flourishes classic post-punk sound, only to tear the rug out from under you right when you feel comfortable. Casey’s exploration of issues such as the loss of a love, evil brought about by suffering and his parents’s death (Casey lost his mother while writing the record) are handled skillfully. The record is at once confrontational and unassuming.
I was impressed that Protomartyr was able to reinforce these qualities with their live performance. Casey stood in a gray suit, a High Life clutched in one hand, moving only inches for the entirety of the set. He stared straight forward, his gaze never meeting those of the audience members. Yet somehow he engaged. Perhaps it was the anonymity afforded by a small dark room, dark clothes and an almost-monotone delivery, but Casey seemed connected to every word he sang. Banging my head to tracks from Intellect and the earlier Under Color of Official Right was almost cathartic.
I highly recommend checking out Protomartyr’s work. (Bonus: If you happen to collect vinyl, their new record comes with a sick poster insert designed by Casey.)
For upcoming shows at The Metro Gallery, head to http://www.themetrogallery.net/calendar.