Many of the songs on Priests’ full-length debut deal with the individual experiences that are so bad, you end up losing faith in humanity as a whole: “If I walk a hundred days/doesn’t mean I get to say/you can’t talk to me that way,” Katie Alice Greer bemoans of the world. Even her own sense of accomplishment is on the chopping block. But, there’s more to this record than a jaded worldview. Failed relationships have also given Greer confidence, freedom, and a perspective on people that proves a fine narrative accompaniment to the punk rock on Nothing Feels Natural.
Priests balance doom metal and multiple tempos on opener “Appropriate” where Greer speaks of tasting maggots and buying things you can’t afford – coolly subverting the idea of building credit and reminding herself how most of us are actually using credit cards. Although the track has a primal core, it’s ornately produced with squelching saxophones, overdubs, and backburning fuzz from guitarist GL Jaguar.
Sadly, the drumming doesn’t share the chameleonic values of the rest of the arrangement. They’re transparently placed at the center of these songs, and “Nicki” suffers for it with screeching hi-hat opens and dual crash sounds that fight the melody. They’re redeemed on the following “Lelia 20” with a consistency that fits perfectly over the top of other guitar crunches and vocal acrobatics. The track then transitions into a prayer at Greer’s bedside, pleading for more tangible human interaction.
Where Nothing Feels Natural suffers is in the R&D department. Many of the ideas only make a couple of appearances. From surf to shoegaze to punk and back, the album ends with a fadeout on “Suck,” which isn’t just overlong, but showcases Greer’s ugliest songwriting. She can scream, hold long notes, play vulnerable, and play aggressive, so talking about how someone “just sucks” doesn’t hold a candle to the rest of the narrative.
Still, there’s quite a lot to like here, and it’s mostly due to Greer – the speak-sing existentialism of “No Big Bang,” the Everything Goes Wrong-era Vivian Girls homage on “Nothing Feels Natural,” the ragged heartbeat of “Appropriate”… If Priests expand on some of the genres they’re playing with, the tunes could take on a more consistent quality. This is a D.C. band, and that must certainly come with a deeper perspective than the ones at play. Asking Priests to tackle more subjects might be shooting the argument in the foot. But chewing out the fat is always important in constructing a record, leaving a blanker canvass with which to paint a real bounty of emotional responses.