Desperate times call for desperate music. And albums don’t come much grimmer — not to mention starker, darker or relentlessly intense — than Protomartyr’s Ultimate Success Today. The incredible and incendiary fifth studio outing from singer Joe Casey and his hard-hitting Detroit post-punks is a fierce, fearsome soundtrack to impeding doom. With the distinctive delivery that has earned him countless comparison to The Fall’s irascible iconoclast Mark E. Smith, Casey brays and barks his pitch-black, dread-filled lyrics about cataclysm, foreign diseases, shut-ins, respirators and last words — all penned before the pandemic, amazingly. Meanwhile, his bandmates lurch and lunge toward the edge with a cunning and cathartic cross of visceral clanging fury and artful sophistication, decorating their claustrophobic walls of sound with free-jazz horns, moody asides and complex melodic passages. They may be stuck in the same slowly sinking boat with the rest of us losers, but make no mistake: Protomartyr are not going down without a fight. Get used to it.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Following the release of Relatives In Descent, the band’s critically acclaimed headlong dive into the morass of American life in 2017 (featured on myriad “best of” lists), Ultimate Success Today continues to further expand the possibilities of what a Protomartyr album can sound like. “The re-release of our first album had me thinking about the passage of time and its ultimate conclusion,” says singer Joe Casey of Ultimate Success Today. “Listening to No Passion All Technique again, I could hear myself hoping for an introduction and a long future, but also being cognizant that it could be ‘one and done’ for us. So, when it came time to write Ultimate Success Today, I was reminded of that first urgency and how it was an inverse of my current grapple with how terribly ill I’ve been feeling lately. Was that sick feeling colouring how I felt about the state of the world or was it the other way around? This panic was freeing in a way. It allowed me to see our fifth album as a possible valediction of some confusingly loud five-act play. In the same light I see it as an interesting mile marker of our first decade of being a band — a crest of the hill along a long highway. Although just to cover my bases, I made sure to get my last words in while I still had the breath to say them.”