Priests - The Seduction of Kansas - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Priests - The Seduction of Kansas

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2019-04-05
Priests - The Seduction of Kansas
Priests - The Seduction of Kansas

When the first single to the D.C. punk trio Priests second album came out in early January, there was a collective gasp from the die-hards who’d followed the band since it’s early days. The title track “Seduction of Kansas” was a tremendous detour from the sounds and influences they had perfected on their adored debut album Nothing Feels Natural from 2017. Instead of the guttural Sonic Youth-ian flavors, instead, this earworm chorus ringing sweetly, and lead singer Katie Alice Greer sounded almost auto-tuned. Folks were confused.

The Seduction of Kansas will undoubtedly be a polarizing record for some. Instead of making the same record again, Priests opted to expand their palette, and it’s a success. Kicking things off with “Jesus’ Son,” an ode to the white male butthurt in America, Greer and her collective offer up the transitional cut from Nothing Feels Natural. It’s punky, it’s jaunty, it’s indebtedly Priests. And while the Sonic Youth feels are still there, producer John Congleton has taken some liberties with their sound to make it a bit more appealing. The thing is, while doing that, Priests have lost none of their edge. The push to be more aesthetically pleasing is a thing, but it often times comes at the sacrifice of content. The Seduction of Kansas doesn’t suffer from that.

The title track is the most intense departure on the record from their roots, but it’s a welcome change of pace. Since Nothing Feels Natural’s debut in January 2017, the band has experienced some changes, and extensive touring outside of their normal areas. I managed to catch them at few midwestern dates, opening for Franz Ferdinand, in addition to festival and solo shows. These travels directly influenced album, as “The Seduction of Kansas” feels like a musical adaptation of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, a book released in 2004 that goes into grave detail just how and why the red state used to be part of a Populist movement and quite progressive, to becoming ultra-conservative and hosting the Westboro Baptist Church. Having lived in Kansas for a majority of my life, I can attest to the state’s backwards way of progress (two steps forward, 8 steps back, kind of thing).

The Seduction of Kansas doesn’t completely overhaul the sound of Priests either. Tracks like “Youtube Sartre” and “Control Freak” feel right at home on any previous release but seem to break up the diversity of the album here. Overall, Kansas feels like an homage to the female pioneers of punk and rock. X-Ray Spex come to mind on “Ice Cream” and I get a sense of Siouxsie Sioux on “68 Screen,” another vast departure in sound from their roots. “Good Time Charlie” feels like that moment on the record that everything, all influences, come crashing together. Greer’s Sioux-isms, juxtaposed with drummer Daniele Daniele harnessing of her inner Kim Gordon, just come crashing together in a powerful rock anthem.

A lot of what draws people to Priests is their penchant for honesty. There’re thousands of punk bands out there, but Priests captivate their audience through accurate depictions of life in America. After 7 years as a band, and a handful of releases, the Seduction of Kansas feels like that great leap into the unknown for a band that pays off. It pairs their post-punk upbringing with cheerleader pop a la The Go-Go’s and Blondie. It does precisely would a sophomore album should do and showcases some of Greer’s best lyrics to date. So, unlike the state Kansas often does, The Seduction of Kansas is pushing forward and exploring new textures, which will ultimately lead to a longer life for Priests.

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