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Protomartyr, 'We Know the Rats'

Within Protomartyr, Joe Casey's viciousness is often a tongue-in-cheek act, but it rings frighteningly true on "We Know the Rats." "Did the Christ feel bad for the gibbering swine he threw those demons in?" he spits, like he wants to kill: "I doubt he bat an eyelid." The targets of his ire are the thieves who repeatedly burglarized the home he's lived in since childhood, robbing him of crucial family artifacts and his personal security. Casey paints a series of sleepless vignettes across a glacial, shoegaze-textured backdrop — going to the cops and realizing they're even less helpful, guarding himself fitfully at night with a baseball bat signed by a Detroit Tiger. Bitter tautness ratchets up in the song as Casey attacks the titular rats' "avarice" and "cankered wealth," his sound and fury biblical.

But in the end, the conflict dissipates. The building wall of tension abruptly drops away until there is only a delicate, beautiful pedal steel riff, against which Casey's voice sings a far gentler melody: "So collect those tears, and wash your face / The house is empty, but the work remains." Formal Growth in the Desert is largely an album about what happens after loss; in "We Know the Rats," Casey sequesters hope in the act of rebuilding and then moves out to make a new home.

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Zhenzhen Yu