Published Apr 03, 2019There's a lot happening on The Seduction of Kansas. By the time the LP — the second from DC punks Priests — comes to a close, vocalist Katie Alice Greer has taken us through Applebee's and cornfields, name-dropped the Koch brothers and Superman, and put us in conversation with poet Eileen Myles and author Chris Kraus. It's a dizzying display of theoretical references and pop culture detritus, one that induces a pleasurable nausea similar to being at the centre of a mosh-pit — blissfully lacking in control, totally at the mercy of those around you.
Fortunately, here we are at the mercy of Priests, the styled rock iconoclasts whose album, Nothing Feels Natural, slouched, sweaty and political, into the musical landscape of 2017. Now, two years later, Priests return, still skewering the modern world — one filled with a staggering excess of images and news cycles, of violence and deception.
The Seduction of Kansas sonically restages the feeling of super-saturation induced by such a world. Bristles of guitar and the smoke of static surround the album, blurring Greer's words, pressing in, until certain phrases become unintelligible, reduced to the brute facts of sound, of vowel, of breath.
When Greer's voice breaks through, however, her meaning is intense and direct. On "68 Screen," she laments the "ideas" and "images, you've used to cover me," through "the bright light that obscures [her] being." But this phenomenon of misshapen truth, wrought by the exigencies of social power, is not only personal — far from it. Characteristic of Priests' political bent, tracks like "Texas Instruments" remain engaged with the larger cycles of history and power that undergird our present moment.
As a listening experience, it's a dense one, but never weighty. After all, the band has spoken about the "healing, sustaining, and transformative power of art." The Seduction of Kansas glistens and hurtles, finding moments of camp and dance that demand a physical response, just as much as they do an intellectual one.
On the album's penultimate track, "Interlude: I Dream This Dream in Which My Body Is My Own," Priests invoke a dream in which a self might exist "legible and unambiguous," untouched by the demands of a destructive social order. Though Priests may lament the distance of this dream, The Seduction of Kansas brings its existence slightly closer to the waking world. (Sister Polygon Records)