Priests "Bodies And Control And Money And Power" LP (2014)
Details: Used copy of Priests debut label album in a co-release with Sister Polygon (lead Katie Alice Greer's label) and Don Giovanni Records released in 2014. Black vinyl, missing the lyrics insert. Bend on the corner of cover. Still one of their strongest releases.
Description: "Global effective tax rates, security-state paranoia, post-millennial malaise, and a certain modernist furniture outlet: they all get theirs on the latest release from D.C. punks Priests. At just 17-and-a-half minutes, Bodies and Control and Money and Power has neither the time nor the patience for fucking around.
All that hopey-changey stuff isn't quite working out for Katie Alice Greer. "Barack Obama killed something in me," Greer screams at the tail end of Bodies and Control and Money and Power, the latest release from D.C. rabblerousers Priests, "and I'm gonna get him for it." Global effective tax rates, security-state paranoia, post-millennial malaise, and a certain modernist furniture outlet: they all get theirs on Bodies. Every anxiety-ridden, admonishment-flinging second of Bodies finds Priests—Greer, drummer Daniele Daniele, guitarist G.L. Jaguar, and bassist Taylor Mulitz—all revved up and ready to go: for them, settling down's just as bad as giving up. As Greer insists on opener "Design Within Reach", if you're "facing fear only when you have to," well, you just made the list.
Bodies—which follows two small-batch cassettes and a 7" on the band's own Sister Polygon imprint—may be Priests' big coming-out party, but it's hardly their first time at the rally. You might know Greer from Chain and the Gang, while Jaguar's been a staple of the DC underground since his teenage years, volunteering at storied District hotspot Fort Reno. After launching Priests in 2012, they quickly made a name for themselves on the back of their fiery live shows. Even on record, it's not hard to see the appeal; they're a restless bunch, largely unconcerned with polish, careening fitfully from one provocation to the next. Jaguar's deranged-surfer anti-riffs and Mulitz's corkscrewing basslines chase each other like junkyard dogs, never letting each other out of their sights for very long. Daniele's deeply innate drum-work is the cool-headed counterpoint to her bandmates' writhing and reeling. And Greer, well, Greer is just something else altogether; whether she's doling out castigations or on the verge of a crack-up, she's an impossibly commanding presence, splitting the difference between control and chaos.
Sure, their music—which triangulates turn-of-the-80s Los Angeles, early 90s Olympia, and NYC b-movie-obsessives the Cramps, if that band spent a little less time at the drive-in and a little more time cataloging the horrors on 6 o'clock news—isn't likely to win them many points for originality, or for that matter, subtlety. But, from the first blast of feedback to the flirtation with light treason that closes it out, Bodies doesn't let up for a second; at just 17-and-a-half minutes, it has neither the time nor the patience for fucking around.
While promising enough, Priests' pre-Bodies releases too often seemed resigned to simple sloganeering, to placing message above medium. Songs about the pernicious influence of television, product placement, and, er, Lana Del Rey hit soft targets at full force; their passion was never in doubt, but for every point they landed, two more seemed pulled from the pages of a dog-eared Punk 101 textbook. At its best, Bodies atomizes that early furor, a powerful weapon to train on a more deserving set of targets. On "Powertrip," Greer rails against the confluence of authority and condescension; on "Design Within Reach," she's reminding us how often creature comforts place a wedge between the haves from the have-nots. "Right Wing" reels off a laundry list of invasive police-state maneuvers; "Modern Love/No Weapon" lifts lines from punk progenitor Jonathan Richman and image poet Diane Wakoski as a way of outlining its "plans to disrupt."
It'd be reductive to pigeonhole Priests as merely a political act, because things are never quite that cut-and-dry. "When you are just a kid you want everything to be new," Greer recalls on "New", "but you go into an old house, and everything is so scary." You can take "New" as a charred childhood memory or a quick-take comment on our disposable culture; for Priests, the personal and the political are always within shouting distance, but Greer's more explicit commentary is often placed alongside lines that leave quite a bit more to the imagination. Politics are front-and-center on the unusually poppy "Right Wing", which kicks off with purse searches and pep rallies. Still, by the song's end, Greer's insisting "I'm not trying to be anything." Closer "And Breeding" touches on post-Y2K unease and Obama-era disenfranchisement, but its first few lines imagine an Elmer's-huffing teen scribbling something about "monkeys and robots, monkey and robots" in the folds of a math ledger.
Does Greer contradict herself? Sure, maybe, and there are times when it seems she's throwing just about everything at the wall in the hopes that some of it'll stick. But political lyrics—or any lyrics, really—need not be coherent to hit home; they've just got to be compelling. Greer occasionally treads over well-worn territory; sometimes she seems to sling her lyrical Molotovs at anything that isn't bolted down. And there are plenty of moments where Greer seems almost pressed for time; the onslaught of interviews Priests have given in the run-up to Bodies illuminate many of the EP's less readily apparent messages, but without that extratextual support, portions of Bodies remain open to interpretation, and some of its more implicit messages occasionally get a bit lost in the shuffle. "We don’t have a thesis statement for our band,” Greer told the Washington Post last month. “We’re still figuring out what we’re trying to say, so if it’s nuanced and confusing to people, that’s cool. It’s nuanced and confusing to us, too.”
Priests are still a relatively new band, with just a few releases to their name; even counting Bodies, their total recorded output clocks in just about an hour. Given their relatively slim output and their occasional difficulty honing in on their targets, it seems like they've still got a couple of kinks to work out. Still, the brash, unflinching Priests just feel necessary; they're just as angry—and perplexed—about the state of things as any of their peers, but unlike those who'd rather retreat into apathy, they refuse to just lie down and take it." - Paul Thompson, Pitchfork
Grade: VG+ (Cover) / NM (Record)
TRACK LISTING SIDE A:
A1. Design Within Reach
A4. Power Trip
TRACK LISTING SIDE B:
B1. Modern Love / No Weapon
B2. Right Wing
B3. And Breeding