With a decade passing since their debut ‘No Passion All Technique’, the thoughts of Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey’s mind bounced between memories of that urgent burst of hopeful introduction and thoughts of life’s inevitable conclusion. ‘Ultimate Success Today’ marks the perfect mid-point between those two diverging thoughts, a record that speaks of the end of all things just as much as it deals with issues of today.
All the elements that we have come to expect from Protomartyr are present and correct, from the poetic and oblique nature of Casey’s lyrics to the fierce wall of sound that erupts. But there is plenty of beauty and playful touches too, instrumental flourishes that puncture the brooding guitars like pinpricks of light in dark storm clouds. Greg Ahee’s guitar sears with nuclear force in one moment, yet dances lightly in the next while a string of guest turns bring an eclectic, free-form feel to events. All the while, Alex Leonard’s drums keep things in check as he drives and cajoles the band into line.
But as always, at the heart of it all is Joe Casey. “I did exist, I did, I was here” he intones towards the end of an album consumed with thoughts of illness, mortality, metaphorical rebirth and words from beyond. Sounding beaten down at times, railing at the world in the next, ‘Ultimate Success Today’ continues to mark him out as one of post-punk’s most fascinating frontmen and lyricists. The next decade awaits.