Fresh Stream, Fresh Video

Fresh Vid: Protomartyr – “Wheel of Fortune”


Protomartyr are set to follow their 2017 full-length Relatives in Descent with the release of Consolation E.P on June 15th. The band’s new single “Wheel of Fortune” finds them re-united with Kelley Deal of the Breeders/R. Ring. Deal supported Protomartyr on the excellent “Blues Festival” from the band’s 2015 split-single with R. Ring, A Half of Seven. While “Blues Festival” served as a sort of primer for new bands on how to carry themselves in the music community, “Wheel of Fortune” wrestles with heavier topics like alienation, structural violence, and disillusionment with the American mythos. The band partnered with Yoonha Park (who also directed their video for “Don’t Go to Anacita”) on the music video. The video features an eerie sequence of fragmented vignettes that effectively build on and flesh out the song’s themes.

The track begins with an elongated peal of feedback but quickly takes off as Greg Ahee (guitar), Scott Davidson (bass) and Alex Leonard (drums) lock into a rhythm that pushes forward in coordinated waves. Singer Joe Casey describes a broken state where those with real agency are at best incompetent and at worst vampiric – Casey and Deal punctuate each bar with the refrain “I decide who lives and who dies”. With the exception of a few shots of the band together, the figures in the video are almost all in isolation, those who are not isolated are situated in relationships where power and authority are clearly defined.

Park shows individuals entranced in acts of self-sabotage: a man repeatedly punches himself in the face, another watches his hand burn, another places his hand upon a table and raises a meat cleaver, a woman covers her whole face with lipstick, and a figure in laboratory garb works at a copper cable with a pair of scissors before being electrocuted. This last figure receives the most attention – after struggling and failing to split the cable, we see them wandering alone through vacant industrial lots, the outskirts of a city, and rocky hillsides before ultimately stopping to watch the sunset by the sea.

An almost psychedelic instrumental interlude builds into what feels like a moment of triumph, but Casey’s narration is firmly grounded as he details a rigged system where inertia is maintained through a shared delusion that necessarily entails self-harm. The band has a transcendent moment as Casey sings:

Your time is coming
That is our promise
If you’re not around your children will do
Roll me over, tender cousin
Open up my face to feel the gears
The inner workings
Forever turning
Busy hands in motion
Hands in action
Hands upon the wheel
Hands upon levers
Hands pulling levers
Hands pulling rigging
Hands around throats
Hands around their own throats
Hands around their own throats

At the close of the video a man lies on the floor and places a golf tee in his mouth in order to allow a figure wearing the mask of an aged man to complete a shot – the younger man’s skull is brutally struck in the process, but the masked figure does not notice as his focus is on the trajectory of his drive. A frantic percussive rumble builds to the song’s finish, which is bookended with echoes of feedback.

A less realized band attempting the tone of “Wheel of Fortune” might scan as nihilistic, but Protomartyr have once again shown here their ability to effectively balance fatalism and hopefulness. Simon Reynolds writes in the prologue to his love letter to postpunk, Rip It Up and Start Again, that the most resonant bands of the period that immediately followed punk’s rise and fall “captured the way that the political is personal, illustrating the processes by which current events and the actions of government invade everyday life and haunt each individual’s private dreams and nightmares”. Over the last six years Protomartyr have proven themselves to be the amongst the best bands to take up the postpunk mantle in recent memory. “Wheel of Fortune” is another impressive achievement from a band that seemingly refuses to rest on their laurels.


23/06/2018 – Athens, GR @ Ejekt Festival
06/07/2018 – Modena, IT @ Arti Vive Festival
07/07/2018 – Chiusi, IT @ Lars Rock Festival
09-11/08/2018 – Haldern, DE @ Haldern Pop Festival
12/08/2018 – Luxembourg, LU @ Rotondes
13/08/2018 – Dusseldorf, DE @ Zakk
14/08/2018 – Bremen, DE @ Tower Musikclub
16/08/2018 – Nijmegen, NL @ Doornroosje
17-19/08/2018 – Biddinghuizen, NL @ Lowlands
18/08/2018 – Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
19/08/2018 – St. Malo, FR @ La Route du Rock
21/08/2018 – Düdingen, CH @ Bad Bonn
22/08/2018 – Zurich, CH @ Mascotte
24/08/2018 – Schorndorf, DE @ Club Manufaktur
25/08/2018 – Charleville-Mézières, FR @ Cabaret Vert
26/08/2018 – Ramsgate, UK @ Ramsgate Music Hall ^
28/08/2018 – Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club ^
29/08/2018 – Hebden Bridge, UK @ The Trades Club ^
30/08/2018 – Liverpool, UK @ O2 Academy 2 ^
31/08/2018 – Salisbury, UK @ End of the Road Festival
30/08 – 2/09/2018 – Vlieland, NL @ Into the Great Wide Open
03/09/2018 – Groningen, NL @ Vera

^ w/ Sauna Youth

06/03/2018 – Seattle, WA @ Upstream Music Festival
06/09/2018 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere (Northside Festival) *
07/22/2018 – Los Angeles, CA @ Shrine Expo Hall #

* w/ Deerhoof
# w/ My Bloody Valentine

More on Protomartyr from the Hassle:

Born to Be Wine
The Agent Intellect
Bandspeak (with Joe Casey)

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