D.C. trio swagger past the dreaded sophomore slump…

While the idea of anything being 'cool' is unquantifiable, it's no stretch to call Priests a goddam cool band. Be it their DIY ethos, electric live shows or distinctive guitar work; they're an outfit doing things on their own terms. Emerging from Washington's renowned punk scene in 2012, the group have kept a tight grip on their destiny, self-releasing material via their own Sister Polygon label.

For five years they've kept busy releasing four EPs as well as releases from the likes of Snail Mail, 2017 finally seeing their full-length debut 'Nothing Feels Natural' land. While many labelled the raw and somewhat political material as a 'punk record’, the album's atmospheric and brooding edges revealed an artistic force with bigger ambitions. 'The Seduction Of Kansas' confirms this with ease.

With bassist Taylor Mulitz leaving to focus on other projects, the band were soon evaluating their intentions and future. The trio decided to relinquish some control and team up with St. Vincent producer John Congleton. It was a wise move. As with many second albums, a lot of the material was written on the road, the final product standing as a raw slice of Americana rounded of with New Wave sheen.

It's an undeniably poppier release, but one that's still shining a light on the US’ current state: its beliefs, values, and heroes. From the abrupt fret-mashing of 'Jesus' Son’, it's clear this is a band that's let the studio work for them. Much like Trent Reznor before, the band pack darker lyrics –  “I am Jesus' son / I think I wanna hurt someone” – into something danceable, an influence they acknowledge with their 'March Of The Pigs' homage video.

The following title track ups the melodic ante, vocalist Katie Alice Greer mournfully mentioning the likes of “White Castle, Pizza Hut and even Applebee's” as she proclaims her love for her country despite – and because of – its failings. The song’s an easy highlight and one of the best rockers to drop this year so far.

'I'm Clean' sees a more traditional post-punk foundation build to yet another sing-along chorus, albeit one addressing the idea of empathy and freedom. Fans of older material will flock to 'Control Freak,' a pissed off stomper showcasing some fantastic Banshee styled guitar from G.L. Jaguar. Similarly 'Good Time Charlie' sees the band firing on all cylinders, Congleton making Daniele Daniele's cymbal crashes sound like the end of the world.

Over its 11 tracks, 'The Seduction of Kansas' reveals a creative force exhilarated and happy to experiment. It's a more mature record, one that keeps the energy of its predecessor and filters it through new sonic filters. Thanks to its subtle mix of styles there's a timeless quality, the sound of freethinkers finding their feet in a very weird time. Get on it.

8/10

Words: Sam Walker-Smart

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