Protomartyr

Consolation

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Protomartyr's fourth full-length album, Relatives in Descent, was one of the finest releases of 2017, a powerful and forbidding marriage of dynamic guitar-based rock and impassioned beat-inspired lyrics that painted a vivid portrait of a chaotic world. The album pointed to any number of directions Protomartyr could go in the future, and though 2018's Consolation is a stopgap four-song EP and not the group's next major statement, it still shows this band going from strength to strength and eager to experiment. The group recorded two of the songs with Kelley Deal guesting, and her vocals add to the dramatic force of the stunning "Wheel of Fortune," a litany of abuse of power that's full of articulate rage. "You Always Win" isn't quite as impressive, but the coda, with strings and reeds adding an edge of free jazz to the music, fits well. The other two tracks are simpler and more straightforward, but they both show that Protomartyr's mastery of their unique style is complete, and "Same Face in a Different Mirror" is that rare number from this band that expresses something approaching hope. Joe Casey's volleys of thought remain forceful, artful, and dauntingly intelligent, while Greg Ahee's guitar is gnarly and thoughtful at once, and bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard confirm that muscle and nuance are not mutually exclusive. There are not a lot of bands who do what Protomartyr does, and even if there were, the skill and fury of their music would still set them apart, and Consolation is a brief but potent reminder that they're a force to be reckoned with.

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