On the opening track “Appropriation,” from DC punk band Priests’ excellent 2017 release Nothing Feels Normal, vocalist Katie Alice Greer snarls like a toothy Debbie Harry: “It feels good to buy something you can’t afford.” Beneath her, the song propels over a jittery, anxious groove, falling somewhere between surf rock and early B-52s.
This kind of social commentary and satire of consumer culture threads throughout the album, such as on the Ramones-esque tune “Pink White House,” in which Greer recites: “Anything you want/ Anyone you want/ Anywhere you want,” invoking the political discourse of our current pussy-grabber in chief.
But while Greer understands that such themes and imagery can be interpreted as topical, she says political context can be found in almost anything. “It can be hard to find any meaning in it when people call us a political band,” she explains. “A lot of times I write songs that aren’t about interpersonal relationships, but are more about structural flaws in our two-party electoral system or cultural appropriation.”
But throughout Nothing Feels Normal, the social subtext is presented, in the tradition of the best punk rock, as anti-sloganeering, or even un-messages. If everything is political, then everything is also protest. And this dynamic, in the universe of Priests, is exhausting.
Elsewhere on the album, over a blank-verse, no-wave groove, Daniele Daniele sits in on spoken-word vocals: “All the sudden all this science, and evolution and progress/ I mean sure, it looks good from a distance/ but when you’re really inside of it you realize it’s fucking terrifying.”
“It’s about anxieties but also the dangers of abstract thought,” Daniele explains. “Which are things that aren’t necessarily political, but the problems of being a creature in the world.”
Priests return to Eugene alongside Stef Chura and Lithics 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 18, at The Boreal; $11, all-ages. — Will Kennedy