PLAYING DETROIT: Cheerleader “Bitchcraft”


There is nothing coy about Flint-based Cheerleader’s first full-length album, Bitchcraft. It is a riotous collection of defiant anti-apologies, that if delivered in any way other than Cheerleader’s impenetrable assault, would reinforce the very holding back they’re fighting against. Bitchcraft is the ultimate “fuck you” manifesto aimed to destroy, disarm, and devour the state of counterrevolution. Fully equipped with an advanced artillery of punk purism and unflinching feminism, Bitchcraft doesn’t knock. It grants itself permission.


The power of Christina “Polly” McCollum (lead vocals, guitar), Ashley MacDermaid (bass), and Nisa Seal (drums) is not contingent on image, labels or accessibility, rather their undeniable cohesion in being able to tear down the construct and crippling societal misogyny without compromising sincerity. The album opens with a shrill “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” which feels more like a dare than a question. The words bleed into the opening track “Beauty Queen” where McCollum delivers the first of many deafening blows with repeating the lines “I am more than my body.” Although the album clocks in just over 23 minutes, don’t mistaken its brevity for a shortcut. Quite the contrary. Cheerleader is free of filler or watery withdrawals, saying what needs to be said without finding polite euphemisms to spare feelings. Closing out the track “Friday Night Bites” during an Addams Family worthy bass line, McCollum exclaims: “No one cared about you then/no one cares about you now,” a testament to that one thing we have always wanted to say to that person we’ve always wanted to say it to. That’s the beauty of the anti-beauty of Cheerleader’s debut album. They have found a way to inspire without the squishy connotation.

To say this is an important record for women is like saying it’s wet when it rains. The overarching message of reprisal through rebellion and tenacity channeled by audacity is what, when conjoined with their tightly woven, Bikini Kill sludge, elevates Bitchcraft from an argument to an uprising.

Listen to Bitchcraft in its entirety here and check out the track “Beauty Queen” below:

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PLAYING DETROIT: Protomartyr “The Agent Intellect”


Rolling Stone gave Protomartyr‘s third album The Agent Intellect four out of five stars. Pitchfork gave it a 8.2 rating, and Consequence of Sound thought it worthy of an A-. And somehow, I feel like I just walked into a movie theater during the credits and everyone is clapping. I feel like I missed something. I’ll admit, it took an annoying amount of Facebook shares and reposted reviews to spark my interest in Protomartyr, who on paper seemed like they would fit my taste profile. The term “post punk indie” was tossed around and some comparisons to Ian Curtis of Joy Division, too. At first glance, it seemed moody enough for me to say yes to, but at second and third glance I’m left shrugging my shoulders.

An ambitious four piece, The Agent Intellect is Protomartyr’s third album in three years. An impressive feat, yes. However, after an appropriately chosen three listens, I spent half the time waiting for something to happen and the other half wondering if Rolling Stone and I were listening to the same album. To be fair, I like the album. It’s fine. But that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. What sounds like a collection of early 2000’s indie B-Sides reflective of, say, Louis XIV (remember them? Yeah, no one else does, either). Intellect rides a steady trajectory, rarely seizing the moment and instead primes for the aforementioned moment without resolve, release or that thing. Perhaps it’s the lack of explosive, emotive moments that makes this album unique. Maybe we’re saturated in riding the roller coaster to the point where albums like Intellect seem refreshing. The songs run together like a high school watercolor but maintain a respectable cohesion. The drums on “Cowards Starve” sound like the drums in “Boyce or Boice” and “Why Does it Shake?” The vocals are somehow consistently flashy in their flatness. After riding the stagnant wave, a track like “Clandestine Times” wakes you up not by being particularly loud or outrageous but for being the song. Yes, it sounds like something ripped right off of The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, but it’s unexpected in context and is the bloodiest, messiest on the album, making it for me the most sincere moment on The Agent Intellect. It is after this track that the album adopts a slightly more unmerciful tone and at some point sounds as if Protomartyr are actually feeling something instead of just making sounds about feeling something.

The truth is, when it comes to music I much rather feel passionate about hating or loving something than be unmoved. I wanted to inhale Agent Intellect and wanted to crave more of it. But really it comes down to being challenged and surprised. If I were at a house party, I could hear this fading into the background over beer bottles and conversation; a non-intrusive soundtrack to a night you probably won’t remember, because the party was only okay.