[sic] Magazine

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

DC punks Priests recently made headlines when they kinda hilariously got involved in a Songkick mix-up with some real priests, but with the release of Nothing Feels Natural, their debut LP after a string of singles and EPs, the four-piece are beginning to cement their real identity. The first album release on their own Sister Polygon Records, an imprint that has previously issued fine missives from the likes of Pinkwash and Downtown Boys, Nothing Feels Natural majorly steps up – be it via funk, jazz, pop or even an out-of-place instrumental palate cleanser – from 2014’s lo-fi, post-punking no-waver Bodies And Control And Money And Power. Despite hating on Barack Obama (maybe/maybe not tongue-in-cheek), it was a record nevertheless born in more liberal times and which still managed to rail on the corruption of power and wanton consumerism. Nothing Feels Natural too was written before Trumpaggedon and it predictably continues in a similar vein. The temptation then is to look to Priests’ next album already as, thanks ironically enough to the great pretender, we’re potentially sitting on a goldmine of great reactionary punk, it included, but in doing so we do Nothing Feels Natural a disservice as its nine short statements, near distortion free these days, ring clearly and burn brightly in terms of protest now.

Recognising the dopamine-releasing addiction of blind purchases (“It feels good to buy something you can’t afford”), the lively opener “Appropriate” straight away skewers our shallows lives over a minimal template of pounding hand-drums, the thrum of Taylor Mullitz’s bass and Katie Alice Greer’s unhinged sneer. It’s a clean-sounding listen, an assailant armed with a knife rather than a club, but – where you might expect it to come to a clattering close – it spins off confidently into meandering art-punk splashes and jazz saxophonist Luke Stewart’s messy skronk. It’s impressive stuff, not that Greer claims to care. “I’m really not concerned with what you think” she intones on “Pink White House”, a tight bout of post-punk guitars that knows to hold back in order that when they do bare their teeth they’re that much sharper. Taking “cool” down a few notches in turn, the punk-funking “Suck” is thoroughly nonplussed about scene life. Similarly scathing of manipulative marketing departments, and while coming on like a crude punk-rock house-band mucking around with barroom piano and loungy flecks, “JJ” lampoons those that smoke (“I thought I was a cowboy because I smoked Reds”), Greer delivering an unusually melodic holler of a vocal not unlike Lisa Kekaula of The Bellrays.

Greer recently and reputedly had to quit the screaming most associated with early Priests material and as such her vocal, perhaps finding its new groove, is all over the place here and there. As such, it gets dragged off in strange and exciting directions as she experiments, a bored reeling-off of a list of lyrics in “Nicki”, which, piqued in odd places, doesn’t allow the music to dominate. It’s a track that’s consequently all about the words, no matter how mundanely most of them are delivered, and because of that it calls to mind the punk drawl of someone like Protomartyr. Daniele Daniele, Priests’ drummer, eventually gives Greer’s strained vocal chords a rest as she delivers a quick-fire spoken part over synapse-popping riffs on “No Big Bang”, an album stand-out just as seductive as those Wall were peddling on Wharf Cat last year, Daniele’s mesmeric back-and-forth teasing and threatening like a weapon throughout. Sitting in the middle of the record and unwilling to take a back seat any longer, the tenebrous New Wave of the title track ramps up on drum rips to finally herald too the arrival of searing guitar parts, fizzy feedback and indistinct reverb. Priests may hint at punk and rock’s rich history in its various guises as they flit from sound to sound, but they, like Greer, are starting to find their own voice at they go … one that interestingly does most of its damage in much more withering terms this time around.

Best tracks: “No Big Bang” / “Nothing Feels Natural”

~Nothing Feels Natural is released Feb 17th 2017 via Sister Polygon Records.~