Published Jan 25, 2017Priests fit into a storied tradition of politically motivated punk bands from Washington, DC, but the group sets itself apart from the city's haphazard hardcore heroes with this thematically and stylistically focused LP. Nothing Feels Natural addresses personal autonomy and responsibility with precision, even as songs like "Appropriate" disintegrate into spare, ominous segments.
It makes sense that a band concerned with power dynamics would be so rigorous with their sound. Lean, trebly surf riffs dart through "Leila 20" and lead single "JJ." Peals of reverb roll over "No Big Bang" and the standout title track without breaking into disarray. Drummer Daniele Daniele's rhythms remain fixed, with few fills to break up measures. The band only seem to verge on disorder with penultimate track "Puff," before closer "Suck" returns to a static groove that resembles post-disco acts like ESG and Liquid Liquid.
Even powerhouse vocalist Katie Alice Greer maintains impressive control. Her howls toe the line between X's Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch, but her delivery remains exact even as her words stagger over into new bars on "Nicki." Her lyrics are elusive, but feel specific enough to cut deep. She compares cultural appropriators to superficial gameshow contestants, while a "rich kid low-life" is only interesting because he smokes Parliaments.
The band only falters when they lean on stock symbols, as on the materialist-baiting "Pink White House." If those lyrics sound lazy, it's only because Nothing Feels Natural is so taut and particular otherwise. (Sister Polygon Records)