The devil, in their Sims-esque hijinks, comes in many colours. Obviously, there is the bright red one with the tail, two horns, and a poker. There might be one who is albino pale, like the depictions of Lucifer drawn by such artists as William Blake and Gustave Doré. But then there is the kind that feels like a hearse driver–that is the one that drives the Post-Punk vehicle known as Protomartyr, especially so with their third studio record The Agent Intellect. Gone are the days where this Michigan band called themselves Butt Babies. Their delinquency has reached a status fit of something grey and devilish.
With this release, the band lets go of some of the frantic ways that made Under Color of Official Right sound like something comparable to TV on the Radio a la “Wolf Like Me.” Protomartyr’s vocalist Joe Casey can feel sedated at times, with his baritone vocals that allow listeners to reminisce upon the early days of New Order or The Smiths, but the strings and pertinent percussion will still allow post-punk fanatics to enjoy the band’s inner Wire-like sounds.
“The Devil in His Youth” settles listeners to the moody sound of the record, not promising a twist or anything sounding blissful. On the wheel at this point is your typical vampire: they are not yearning for blood; they only want to get home. “Cowards Starve” touches on tinges of Lou Reed while also allowing the drums to speed past their sedation and into something faster. The guitars buzz while the song indicates its unified pursuit for oomph. This flirting with Reed can also be heard on the grungier take “Boyce of Boice.” “I Forgive You” takes the confusing sounds of Butthole Surfers and melds it with a sober style of sadness emanating from each string.
“Pontiac 87” manages to sound like the forbearers of post-punk, taking the influence of Joy Division to heart and not letting go. With this song and the Frankenstein feeling of “Why Does It Shake,” it becomes clear that Protomartyr could take on shoegaze if they wanted to. “Why Does It Shake” also allows listeners to wonder whether an industrial aesthetic would improve the band’s sound, even though the production on the whole album is good on its own. They are apt in creating melancholy bass riffs (“Clandestine Times”), using rebellious lyrics without it sounding cheesy (“Dope Cloud”), while also compromising between new sounds and the frantic quality of old (“The Hermit”), and taking on their influences without truly becoming them, a feat that is a challenge.
The Agent Intellect is not a calming record, but it is not one you would put on when you feel erratic either. It makes listeners melancholic when they have to see the devil that it is leave. Like The X-Files episode of the same name, this record is its own “Post-Modern Prometheus.”
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.