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Protomartyr – Born To Be Wine

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Initially, I think I was attracted to this song’s grittiness and its warbling sense of rhythm. There’s this strange doo-wop pulse running through it – or maybe a subtle waltz. It’s that quick 1-2-3 1-2-3 movement. Trust me – it’s a progression you will find familiar but for reasons you won’t really understand. Somehow it’s just ended up in our musical vocabulary. “Born to Be Wine” seems to play on what we find familiar about music but strips away nearly all of that familiarity, replacing it with things that are darker and more uncomfortable.

The specific delivery of the guitar and bass distort this reference into something else, something modern and slightly paranoid. The guitar sounds constantly on the verge of feedback like it is shocked full of electricity. And yet the playing is quite together and the notes sound all “right”.

The bass guitar is particularly interesting because it sounds so disconnected and distant from the rest of the band. It’s as if they recorded parts for two separate but similar songs and then mixed them together. One wonders if maybe this was the bass players first time hearing the song. Listening closely to the part reveals “wrong” notes. It colors the chords in a weird, primitive, “something’s not quite right” way. I am sure this was intentional and not by accident or lack of skill but it’s pretty unexpected and pretty fucking punk.

The vocal delivery mimics something that a chilled off Lou Reed or a lounging Black Francis might have done. Its attitude is pure post-punk-southern-gothic-rock with the violence of punk music and the pacing of a 1950’s crooner. Lyrically, we are in a very surreal place with many references to “insects laying eggs in corners”, the mouth of some dark cave, and the constant call out: “you there, in the front row!” Check out the track below – it is sure to both surprise and please you.

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