The perfect punk rock album for a world in flux
TV Priest plunge into the punk scene with some intensity on their debut album Uppers. On this record, the band comes in hot with an embrace of industrial influences and a sprinkle of ’80s flavor that is sure to get them noticed. It’s a fast-paced soundscape that invokes questions of our place in society and the role of the government, as well as the troubling nature of the toxic trends on social media.
Having met once again after a childhood friendship faded away, London natives Charlie Drinkwater, Alex Sprogis, Nic Bueth and Ed Kelland felt the need to create music together once more, now under the name TV Priest. Before the pandemic hit, the band was able to squeeze in their first and only show so far in an industrial warehouse freezer in front of a small crowd of family and friends. In true punk rock fashion, the band launched themselves forward even during a global pandemic with a few singles titled “House of York” and “Runner Up” to catch people’s attention. These singles sparked the creation of this debut album released by Sub Pop records.
The first track of the album, “The Big Curve,” brings the energy, waking up the ears with chugging distorted bass and shapely stabs of guitar. Drinkwater’s spoken words ominously yell about how, “This could be/ The first day of the rest of your life,” while also addressing how society and social media screens keep people frozen. The song builds and grows, with the addition of crashing drums and high-pitch guitars ringing intensely in one’s ears.
The big single of the album is “Decoration,” carrying several references to the artists’ personal life and pop culture throughout its lyrics. The song is an upbeat jam that, just like “The Big Curve,” slams the ears with a full blast of drums and guitars, in close concert with lyrics that do not seem to make much sense at first. The lyrics actually have lines from the UK’s Britain’s Got Talent, playfully giving pop culture a punk rock veneer.
“This Island” brings in a subtle yet sharp ’80s-style synth, giving a new tone to the punk rock sound. With moments of dissonance between the guitar, vocals and drums, the band pours their anger for political decisions made in the UK as well as the understaffed health care services. The band even touches on being glued to social media screens in lyrics like, “I found it in the comfort of my own home late at night/ Just scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling,” showing a true disconnect with reality that stems from endless streams of videos and posts.
Continuing their critical look at media, TV Priest’s second single, “Press Gang,” criticizes new media and the absence of truth. Drinkwater said it was inspired by his grandfather and his time as a journalist—it touches on the slow death of newspapers and written news and how the media bends and molds the truth to their liking.
“Saintless” closes out the album with the most emotional iteration of their punk rock style yet. Though it still carries the same raw power as any other track on the project, the closer offers a vulnerability that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the album. Inspired by a note written by Drinkwater after the birth of his son, it breaks down the sometimes difficult-to-swallow truth that parents are humans, just like anyone else, doing the best they can.
Joining forces once more (now as adults), TV Priest delivers a strong punk rock sound with even stronger messages embedded within their poetic lyrics on Uppers. The album is a great fast-paced jam session that makes the ears ring and the heart race, so be prepared for breathlessness while listening to this album.