Protomartyr: The Agent Intellect 12"

Hardly Art Records


Consider the urgency with which Protomartyr has approached everything —three albums in three years, each more extraordinary and rewarding than the last. This music is inherently, unassumingly high stakes. This October marks the release of The Agent Intellect, their third and finest work to date. Named after an ancient philosophical questioning of how the mind operates in relation to the self, it’s an elegant and often devastating display of all that makes Protomartyr so vital and singularly visceral an outfit.

Our take: Third LP from this brilliant band out of Detroit. If you haven't been paying much attention to Protomartyr you might be a little surprised to see them featured so prominently and endorsed so heartily by Sorry State, but the semi-mainstream attention that this band has garnered is hardly an indication that they've sold out, compromised, or done anything but gotten better since they started. In fact, I'm not even a huge fan of the band's first LP... I think they really hit their stride with Under Color of Official Right, and The Agent Intellect continues to develop and push forward everything that is great about that record. In particular, the lyrics on this record are fantastic. I've often spoken to people about how I've trained myself not to pay attention to lyrics because most of them, if they're not completely awful, don't really add to my life in any appreciable way. However, Protomartyr's lyrics never fail to get me thinking... as is the case with most punk bands I'm only able to snatch little handfuls of meaning as they pass me by, but that effort is always rewarded. Musically, this is very much in the same vein as the last LP (in fact, some passages seem remarkably familiar, perhaps slightly self-referential?), but with a sound that is slightly more expansive, maybe even teetering on the edge of "epic" in places. It's longer by nearly 10 minutes with the same number of tracks as Under Color, and the songs feel full of air and space, a quality they add somehow without sacrificing the general compactness of both punk and pop. As was the case with their last LP, this record feels like a riddle, and listening to it is kind of like rolling around a Rubik's cube in your hands, knowing that you'll never solve it but taking pleasure in trying to figure it out anyway. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this band--and this record in particular--is really smart... not in a way that is overwrought and complex, but in a way that is simple and elegant. Unless you have some ideological commitment to rock/punk/music/etc. being loud, dumb, fast, or possessing some other essential quality then Protomartyr is a band you should be paying attention to.
Tags: 10s indie melodic post-punk recommended yoobl