At their most approachable, Priests evoke a dark danceability that recalls last year’s Savages album. Such namechecks could serve as a valuable calling card but to their credit, the Washington DC four-piece buries those grooves fairly deep into Nothing Feels Natural – they have headier pursuits in mind.
Although this is Priests’ debut full-length, the band already has a meaty EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power, to their name. When I saw them on a bill with Parquet Courts last summer (a logical pairing, by the way) you could feel the ambition baked into Nothing Feels Natural already bursting forth. Powered by a hellion vocalist (Katie Alice Greer) and a stout, fashion-challenged guitarist (G.L. Jaguar), they’re not a band one can easily ignore. In some ways they remind me of Atlanta faves Warehouse – if the latter’s scrabbling guitars were swapped out for a powerhouse rhythm section.
Nothing Feels Natural wastes no time putting forth its in-your-face agenda. About halfway through its five minute running time “Appropriate” breaks down into no-wave saxophone skronk, gradually building back up with unhinged rantings channeling both Lydia Lunch and Karen O. This cacophony quickly gives way to rollicking piano on the vaguely rockabilly-inflected “JJ.” The implied message: Don’t get too comfortable; it’s gonna be a white knuckle ride.
Later on, Greer talks/recites her way through “No Big Bang,” one of the better depictions of bipolar mania and its depressive flipside that I’ve heard put to music. And “Pink White House” – presumably written well before November’s election – will likely become a thematic flashpoint and has the rhythmic fire to back it up – Priests headlined an anti-inauguration bill in their hometown on Jan 20. The song is hardly a celebratory HRC paean, though – Greer is far too fed up for that.
Priests are one of those DIY DC bands with little regard for boundaries; I sense they might be disappointed if they don’t leave you a little pissed off. Nothing Feels Natural accomplishes that mission – in the best way.
Nothing Feels Natural