Formal Growth In The Desert (Domino)

Contact Jacob Daneman about Protomartyr

Detroit post-punk quartet Protomartyr present “Polacrilex Kid,” the final single/video ahead of their highly anticipated new album, Formal Growth In The Desert, out this Friday, June 2nd on Domino. The “Polacrilex Kid” video harkens back to the heydays of television and previews Protomartyr’s forthcoming appearance on The Marty Singer Telethon, premiering on Highland Park TV on Thursday at 7pm ET. Featuring in-studio performances of “Polacrilex Kid” alongside debuts of Formal Growth In The Desert standouts “Fun In Hi Skool” and “3800 Tigers,” the telethon is hosted by the inimitable Marty Singer (who Protomartyr fans may recognize from their “Processed By The Boys” video) and Sarah McMahon, and will feature other amazing performers, such as Stoney Sharp the wrangler, the Mt. Sinai Hospital Dance Team, and so much more. For a sneak peek of the album (possibly in the form of muzak?), call into the telethon’s hotline at 1-888-57-HLPTV.


The song derives its title from the chemical name for nicotine gum, something singer Joe Casey refers to as an “unwanted friend I’ve become acquainted with since getting on the quit smoking/start smoking again tilt-a-whirl.” At the song’s core, it delves into thematic material that is not unfamiliar in the Protomartyr canon:  can you hate yourself and still deserve love?


The band will return to the road next month for a North American and UK/EU tour. Full dates are listed below and tickets are on sale now.


Protomartyr’s sixth album, Formal Growth In The Desert, was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.  Though Casey did have a humbling experience staring at awe-inspiring Sonoran rock formations and reckoning with his own smallness in the scheme of things, the group’s sixth album is not necessarily a nod to the sandy expanses of the Southwest. Formal Growth In The Desert proves Detroit, too, is like a desert. “The desert is more of a metaphor or symbol” Casey says, “of emotional deserts, or a place or time that seems to lack life.”


The “growth”came from a period of colossal transition for Casey, including the death of his mother, who struggled with Alzheimer’s for a decade and a half. Now 45, Casey had lived in the family home in northwest Detroit all his life. In 2021, though, a rash of repeated break-ins signaled that it was time to finally move out. Protomartyr’s music — more spacious and dynamic than ever — helped pull Casey up. “The band still being viable was very important to me,” Casey adds, “and it definitely lifted my spirits.”


Having long served as Protomartyr’s unofficial musical director, guitarist Greg Ahee co-produced Formal Growth In The Desert alongside Jake Aron (Snail Mail, L’Rain). Ahee knew what Casey was going through and the challenges he’d been processing, and as Ahee was conceptualizing the music, he thought about how to make it all “like a narrative film.” The filmic sensibility is manifest in Casey’s storytelling, too, whether he’s critiquing ominous techno-capitalism or processing aging, the future, and the possibility of love.


Protomartyr have become synonymous with caustic, impressionistic assemblages of politics and poetry, the literal and oblique. Casey describes the underlying theme of Formal Growth In The Desert as a 12-song testament to “getting on with life,” even when it feels impossibly hard.



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