The Agent Intellect - Rolling Stone
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The Agent Intellect

Post-punk working stiffs find some humanity in the murk and gloom


Zak Bratto


Detroit’s Protomartyr come from a long, proud line of post-punk bands with a less than cheerful attitude. For frontman Joe Casey and company, it’s been a long road out of Motor City obscurity; on last year’s raw, poignant breakthrough Under Color of Official Right, Casey ranted and raved about everything from corrupt city mayors to drunken deadbeat dads. Now, with their third and best full-length, one might expect Protomartyr to be reveling in their redemption – but The Agent Intellect isn’t that album. The band’s music is still built on Rust Belt koans (“I had to show them that the weakest hands can still make impressive fires,” Casey muses on “Cowards Starve”), guitarist Greg Ahee’s fanged leads (see the serrated whirligig of highlight “I Forgive You”), and an unmistakable musk of existential dread perfuming every pitiless hook. More than anything, though, this LP feels like a testament to perseverance, with world-weary humor and introspection providing flashes of clarity (notably on “Ellen,” a tribute to Casey’s mother written from the perspective of his late father). “It’s not gonna save you, man,”  Casey warns repeatedly on “Dope Cloud.” But for some of us, in some cases, The Agent Intellect just might.

In This Article: Protomartyr


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