Following in the line of the Smiths and Joy Division, Protomartyr uses a variety of styles and instruments to complement melancholy lyrics, not overpower them. Drawing influence from the British post-punk movement and garage rock, Protomartyr’s Under the Color of Official Right is a grungy, yet polished, punk record.
Joe Casey’s baritone vocals are strikingly similar to those of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. Even though Casey’s voice is a low droning for most of the album, he is still able to add an impressive amount of emotion to his lyrics. Tales of the bleakness of the band’s hometown Detroit riddle the album, telling of the desolate and defeated feelings that have rocked the city.
Musically, Protomartyr is able to mesh multiple subsets of the post-punk movement to create a sound that encompasses the time period. Loud, fast and fuzzy guitars with smashing cymbals like those on “Ain’t So Simple” and “Pagans” are a callback to the Clash, while the more dominant bass line on “Scum, Rise!” creates a darkness similar to New Order. Heavy drums and bass pair with lighter guitars, allowing the music to simultaneously describe the love for Detroit yet also the band’s disdain for it, describing it as a “hole.”
Although there are multiple style shifts, the album can still get bogged down and repetitive. Similar drum and bass riffs appear in numerous places, leaving the listener somewhat bored. Also, occasionally Casey’s lyrics are drowned out from the fuzz of the guitar or slamming of the drums. The lyrics on the album are powerful and despondent tales that deserve to be heard, not out-played.
Under the Color helps to put life back into a genre that has been lacking in recent years. Influenced by its Detroit upbringing, Protomartyr combines grunge, garage and punk to create a passionate tale of gloom.