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Music Box 9/4: Pataskala x The Protomen

Tonight I’m going to see The Protomen, so I’m actually writing this last night. Or tomorrow I’m going to see them, so I’m writing this today. Time is weird.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Music Box entry, mostly because I felt like they had gotten stale, and I started the whole thing because I wanted to try something different. So, things being cyclical, maybe it’s back to being interesting again.

Or not. Let’s find out together.

protomen

The beer: Pataskala Red X IPA – Stone

The album: The Protomen – The Protomen

I have trouble paying attention to the beer during “Hope Rides Alone”, the expositional first track. I usually listen to an album for the first time while doing a Music Box (and, if we’re being honest, I usually don’t listen to male singers: go check out 5-8), so my perspective can be fresh. Oh well.

I sip. Have I changed, or has Stone? I’ll be honest: I had grown tired of their “ridiculously hopped” shtick years ago. I liked Ruination, because sometimes you do want to punish your tongue with bitterness. But not all the time. This is very hoppy, but slightly subdued, as though it had sat around for too long. But in a… Good way? I can taste some malt underneath the juicy bitterness.

(Excuse me, going to violently shove my fist in the air for a minute at the end of the song.)

I check in to the beer: oh, it’s an imperial. Although, at 7.3%, is it really? Let’s all take a moment to recognize how ridiculous that is. Southern Tier IPA is 7%. Our Singularity series, which we still call a plain IPA, is 7.2. Words are meaningless.

A portrait of the artist

A portrait of the artist

“Unrest In the House of Light” plays now, the first Protomen song I ever heard, all the way back on the Geekdad music podcast years ago.

I love the color on this beer. I generally don’t put too much stock into color, because who cares what it looks like as long as I like the taste, but gods dang it’s a beautiful shade of red. I try to take a picture and it does not turn out well. Just trust me. Red. Pretty.

This is a terrible picture, but trust me. Pretty shade of red.

This is a terrible picture, but trust me. Pretty shade of red.

For a long time, even when I really enjoyed this album, I didn’t like the production. Things sound muddy, rough around the edges. Then I read an interview with the band where they said they specifically recorded it on analog equipment. They wanted this sound. I listened again, and realized it was rough-on-purpose. The compression and noisy, crunchy drums are part of the point. Since then I’ve become very fond of noisy, borderline-unpleasant music. Celebration of the imperfect.

Okay, I know I’m 31 and all, but “Vengeance”, the song about two robot brothers yelling at each other about the fate of humanity before they fight, is just awesome. I don’t make the rules. “Is this the best you’ve got?”, Mega Man taunts. I know. I know how it sounds.

The Pataskala is unmistakably Stone: hoppy, aggressive, in your face. But damn if I’m not enjoying it.

I remember that I really like doing these. I like music. I like beer. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that there is joy in the world. That thought took me by surprise but it came and wouldn’t go until I wrote it down, which seemed important given that I’m trying to mash together beer and music and see what comes out.

From tonight's show

From tonight’s show

The Protomen are not a video game band, and that reputation haunts them a bit from what I understand. They make music inspired by a video game, but it’s music first and Mega Man second. Still, I’m always glad to hear the iconic Mega Man “boop” sound towards the end of “Sons of Fate”.

Finally, “Due Vendetta”, the song they close every show with, even when it’s a show of them playing only Queen songs. With cavernously hollow sounding tom hits and ultra-compressed cymbals underneath a list of enemies in the Mega Man franchise. It works. This beer works with the music too. Unrefined, which isn’t to say that it isn’t well crafted, but harsh around the edges, and purposefully so.

Welcome back, Music Box. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime soon.