[sic] Magazine

IST IST – Protagonists

Ist Ist – Protagonists

On their debut album Architecture, Manchester post-punk torchbearers, Ist Ist (or is it IST IST?) showed plenty of promise whilst fanning the embers of Manchesters great musical heritage. Protagonists is their third long player, following the covid constrained Art Of Lying collection. There’s more to them than the regulation Curtis sound-alike tag though. On Protagonists IST IST continue to forge an identity of their own.

Equally as catchy as they are doomy, IST IST certainly have the songwriting chops to keep their releases varied. There’s no samey-ness here nor are there any facsimiles of past classics. If, as claimed elsewhere, opening track ‘Stamp You Out’ is supposed to recall Joy Division then it would have to be from the bands earlier, Warsaw era work. Gritty and muscular, ‘Stamp You Out’ provides a taught, powerful beginning to proceedings but it doesn’t make me think of Joy Division especially. Lyrically, they touch upon issues of mental health and contemporary politics as well as other more obscure topics. eg ‘Mary In The Black And White Room’ may seem to belong on a Cure or Siouxsie album but it actually references an experiment comparing sensory knowledge with experience. No doubt Adam Houghtons baritone will bring certain other bands to mind but IST IST are becoming quite the compelling package in their own right. Musically, the breezy keyboards keep the work nuanced and Protagonists track sequencing is spot on leaving us with an LP which is by turns powerful and accessible.

‘Nothing More Nothing Less’ is another of the jaunty ones but the real standout song here is ‘Emily’. ‘Emily’ feels like the archetypal IST IST track at this moment in time. Like The Nationals ‘Rylan’, this has been kicking around for ages in a live setting, become a fan favourite and now gets a long overdue studio release. It’s certainly a memorable five and a half minutes with its “crying over you” bridge riffing off Q Lazzerus’ ‘Goodbye Horses’. It also contains the best “Mmmm Mmmm”s since Crash Test Dummies.

Like Manchester itself, IST IST continue to emerge from beneath the shadow of Joy Division. Their music is as renewed and rejuvenated as their brilliant city. Witness the shimmering title track here which leads us into closing piece ‘Trapdoors’. Are they pushing the musical envelope? Of course not but what they do they execute very well and the bottom line is, they’re extremely playable.

Last time I checked, that was what records were for.

For fans of Heavens, Interpol, Motorama, Slow Readers Club, The Horrors, Repeater, Black Swan Lane, Soft Kill , A Place To Bury Strangers