There was a time when the early post-punk bands evolved past their earlier sounds. While many of them either turned into pop bands, there was also a large number who went more in a new wave direction. Most great bands are constantly evolving, changing aspects of their sound to grow into something more dynamic with better songwriting sensibilities. So it shouldn’t really shock you that D.C. trio Priests have evolved their sound for their new album The Seduction of Kansas. With a more stylized approach, they somehow found the space between traditional post-punk and new wave without really sounding too far in either direction-though not being boring in the transition.
It should be noted that this album is not really much like Nothing Feels Natural other that it contains most of the same players. Opening with the searing notes of “Jesus’ Son,” Priests showcase how far their sound has evolved right out of the gate. The upbeat stride of the song is where they find themselves most comfortable, which is evident as heard with this track. The dance pop touches of “The Seduction of Kansas” follows, keeping the idea that again, this is a mixed record of post-punk with new wave pieces floating throughout. Catchy and full of hooks, the head bopping track could easily get blasted in a dance club if properly remixed or really, even in its alum form.
While “Youtube Sarte” has plenty of snap with dual vocals and intriguing stabs from the bass and the guitar, the more intriguing song “I’m Clean” that follows should entice you with their newfound sound. It’s post-punk, but boy is it a far cry from what the band became known for. Murky lines cut with distorted and disoriented guitar work well for what’s being attempted here. “Ice Cream” has the sound of early B 52’s when they were more art punk, and of course “Good Time Charlie” pops with energy reminding you that there was good reason the song was a single.
But the magic in the album not only comes from the second half of the record, but in the unknown. The distanced notes of “68 Screen” twists and turns enough to hold your ears, though it’s like a lesson in what post-punk can sound like. “Control Freak” has guitar darkness that hit like they came from a Dead Kennedys album, where the bizarre effects cause the guitar to sound like a warped siren’s call. “Carol” is dark and brooding, though the vocals feel more personal than the snappy pacing of the song. There’s a sadness mired throughout this track, but the way the drums play against the bass that sounds like an almost dystopian disco sound is truly magnificent. The stand out of the album is the closer, “Texas Instruments.” It’s the most cohesive in terms of straight sounding of the album. Keep in mind that we love the styled approach of the album, just that all the sounds from the record come together as one on this final song. That meandering guitar, the muddy bass line and Katie Alice Greer’s humbled vocals all meet to craft a sound that not only hits, it stays with you as well.
You can stream The Seduction of Kansas on all streaming platforms, you can purchase it digitally from all online music stores, and you can purchase it physically directly from Sister Polygon Records. Priests are on tour beginning April 15 at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, PA until July 10 at Off Broadway in St. Louis, MO. A complete list of their appearances can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Drew Hagelin.