Album #187: Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Detroit, Michigan, USA
  • Label: Domino
  • Best Track: Processed by the Boys

Today saw the release of one of my most anticipated albums of 2020. I can’t quite believe that it’s been nearly three years since Detroit post-punks Protomartyr released Relatives in Descent, but here they are with their fifth album, Ultimate Success Today.

I liked Relatives in Descent, but not as much as the two albums before it – Under Color of Official Right (2014) and what I see as their pinnacle, 2015’s The Agent Intellect. The singles for this new record were promising, especially the hard-hitting ‘Processed by the Boys’.

Their albums always seem to have two things in common: they all have a cover featuring a head of some sort, and they’re always bloody good! It takes more time to fully digest a Protomartyr album than I’ve had so far, what with Joe Casey’s religion- and literature-rich lyrics spat out through his languid, baritone delivery, but at the moment, I’m ranking it third in their chronology, above Relatives in Descent and their debut No Passion All Technique.

For early standout moments, I love the abrasive ‘June 21’, featuring vocals from Nandi Rose of Half Waif. One other thing I think Protomartyr are definitely learning is how to end an album. The otherwise brilliant second and third albums end with weakish tracks, but Relatives in Descent had a superb closer with ‘Half Sister’, and this one has an even better one in the sad and morbid ‘Worm in Heaven’.

Give me a bit more time with this one. It’s good, I’m just not yet sure how good.

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