Detroit’s Protomartyr are a post-punk influenced group with a manifesto as canny and mysterious as the found photograph on the cover of their new album Relatives in Dissent. The kid adorning the cover wears a white robe and has soft features, but his gaze looking outward is defiant, almost cold. This band is a hard-bitten but literate lot; vocalist Joe Casey (whose raspy muttering and shouting understandably get him compared to Dave Thomas, of fellow Midwestern outsider rockers Pere Ubu) mixes nasty invective with highfalutin allusions. And the musical backdrop (handled by Scott Davidson on bass, Alex Leonard on drums, and Greg Ahee on guitar) isn’t exactly your standard garage-punk type deal—it’s often tense, dissonant.
On Relatives in Dissent, Protomartyr make good to accentuate their arty tendencies, moving away from fuzzed-out garage rock towards something still darker, with an undercurrent of unease and an incisive lyrical bite. It’s an album of industrial ruin and apocalyptic black humor, with Casey’s zoned-out narration ferrying you down streets where nothing is as it seems. “My Children” and “Windsor Hum” paint a bleak picture of the future, but they’re also cheeky in their depiction of the pricks behind it. But the hope offered by “Night-Blooming Cereus” definitely isn’t ironic. Worthy of note.