American History X
“Jesus’ Son,” the opening track of The Seduction of Kansas, the second studio album by Washington, D.C. indie rock band Priests, is fast and furious. Anyone too busy jamming out to its head-shaking drum beat or exquisitely overdriven bassline would likely miss what the reverb-soaked vocals of lead singer Katie Alice Greer are saying. However, they should listen closely, because “ghostwritten by a prophet, the shape that I could take/ automatic, obscene, a feral, silver smoking gun,” is the start of a bold commentary by the singer—and the group as a whole—about where we are now and why.
From start to finish, the album is electrifying as it displays the talents of a band who for the last seven years has been definite proof that the country’s capital is the next great American music scene. An indie rock junkie looking for fantastically flanged guitar licks, varying drum tempos and raw and energetic vocal deliveries can find just that in songs like “Control Freak” and “Not Perceived.” The riveting basslines on the record are played by Alexandra Tyson and Janel Leppin, who also helped write many of the songs. The real meat and bones of The Seduction of Kansas is indeed in the lyrics and the history they dare to tell.
Social commentary by artists in our current political climate is continuously watered down because it is keen on pointing out the symptoms of today’s prominent issues without ever daring to mention the disease. Priests go where few artists dare and trust the listener to do the same. For instance, in the album’s final track, “Texas Instruments,” G.L. Jaguar’s catchy guitar licks and Daniele Daniele’s nimble drumming provide a beautiful canvas for Greer to paint a brief history of Anglo-American colonization in the Lone Star State. Texas reminded many during the last midterm elections that America is still very much saturated with—as Greer states in the song—“Macy’s Day Parade history.”
The Seduction of Kansas, with its references to American capitalist staples like Sears, counter-culture figures like Peter Fonda and industry tycoons like the Koch brothers, dares to bring to attention all that makes America great and terrible at once. Real social commentary is spilled all over the record which forces the listener to think through it and make up their mind about it. The band’s proposition of critical thinking is refreshing, exciting and reason alone to make the album a must-listen.
The thick blend of garage rock and avant-garde is but complementary to lyrics that will be archived and played back decades from now as a reminder of the conscious state of the youth during the early twenty-first century. Priests are not redefining art as social commentary; they are merely bringing it back to basics.