Post-Punk | Indie Rock | Noise Rock
Ultimate Success Today is the fifth studio album from Michigan Post-punks Protomartyr, and the very first that I’ve heard from the band personally.
When looking back on my discovery of Protomartyr and this new album, courtesy of my local record shop, Brighton’s Resident Records, I feel it strange that I decided to review a band like this, and furthermore delve so deep into Ultimate Success Today.
To elaborate on this, whilst I feel that I see at least a few good qualities in each and every genre of music, the likes of noise-rock mostly feel very dime-a-dozen as a whole. This result in many albums that tie in with that genre feeling very overrated in my eyes. A perfect example of this would be Daughters’ 2018 album You Won’t Get What You Want, which I only found to be a solid album, while most others seemed to praise it as one of the year’s finest works.
Before I go off on too much of a tangent, what I’m trying to pinpoint was that Ultimate Success Today, because of the kind of album it came across as, didn’t seem like the kind of piece that I’d find myself so invested in. But boy, oh boy, I am indeed invested and then some.
It really didn’t take me that long at all to recognise the thematic coating of this album, which clearly ties in with the idea of the working system, and the endless cycle that affects the typical white-collar worker. With track titles like “Day Without End”, “Processed By The Boys”, and “Modern Business Hymns”, these themes were difficult to miss.
Furthermore, I thought about this further, which led me to recognise that the donkey featured on the album cover may represent your typical white-collar worker as well, performing intellectual labour and “donkey work” so to speak. With that in mind, I swiftly recognised Ultimate Success Today as an album that really has its theme completely realised; a very good aspect to recognise towards the start of my first listen.
Stylistically, Protomartyr definitely feel more engaging than the likes of your typical noise rock artist on this album. In fact, I would say that it wouldn’t be a big stretch at all to compare them to Parquet Courts, a band whose 2018 album Wide Awake! was incredibly enjoyable in my mind. However, I might even go as far to say that Protomartyr seemed to surpass even that on Ultimate Success Today.
Throughout the album, we also get a very slight tinge of jazz, with thanks to the saxophone melodies that are scattered throughout the songs. I felt that this added just a little bit more spice and memorability to the album as well and furthering its atmospheric qualities.
Speaking of such, despite having a very serious and melancholy subject matter, there are few songs that actually carry an immensely warm and bright mood to their sound, most of which I feel could be argued as the most memorable highlights of the album, despite the album as a whole not really having a entirely dull number in sight.
Although, one shouldn’t mistake this album as one that completely carries these kind of warm vibes that feel ironic in comparison to the album’s context. The range of moods are diversified by an equal measure of somber melodies too, the most glaring of which are the likes of “The Aphorist”, “Bridge & Crown”, and the gorgeously tragic sound of the albums closer “Worm In Heaven”, which I feel perfectly represented a life wasted as a white-collar worker.
Furthermore, tracks like “I Am You Now” and “Tranquilizer” even have a gritty and angry tone to them, making the emotional trifecta of the album being a mixture of happiness, sadness, and frustration; a range of feelings that I’m sure surround most white-collar workers.
I feel that the underlying moral message of this album is that you should spend most of your life doing what you actually enjoy doing, and have a life to be proud of when you look back on it. I feel that this moral quality, intentional or not, truly makes it all the more exceptional.
In short, Ultimate Success Today truly does feel like an ultimate success. With one of the strongest core themes I’ve seen surround an album all year, a very diverse range of moods, all of them gripping, and a clear amount of love, care and effort put into every corner of this project, I feel that it is safe to say that this album is a very strong contender as one of this year’s best, and blows every other rock album of 2020 out of the water.
Favourite Tracks: Processed By The Boys | Michigan Hammers | Modern Business Hymns
Least Favourite Track: n/a
Domino Recording Co Ltd