After releasing their excellent album Nothing Feels Natural, it was hard to imagine where Priests would take their sound. The band masterfully demonstrated their post-punk chops, but that genre seems to have its limitations. It is difficult to navigate the post-punk genre and experiment within it without crossing back into punk or straying into alternative. However, with The Seduction of Kansas, Priests have totally eschewed post-punk in favor of a new genre, one much less defined, one that allows the band to full stretch its wings.
Priests tackles more sounds on The Seduction of Kansas than most bands will over the course of their whole careers. This description makes it sound like the Priests is trying to do too much, but most of these new sounds are barely noticeable. They bubble beneath the surface as the band does its thing. When these sounds do break through, though, they hit hard. Album opener, “Jesus’ Son,” is a far cry from anything on Nothing Feels Natural. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, as any opener should. Simply put, “Jesus’ Son” sounds big, clearly drawing from stadium rock. The guitar soars, the drums are driving and the vocals are sharp, but it’s the bass that sets this song apart. The bassline makes the song infectious and danceable, so much so that it’s hard to resist the urge to get up and move while listening to the song. The lyrics are gnarly and a little gross, and that is just how the band wants it.
In a track-by-track breakdown of the entire album released by Stereogum, the band states, “Being bad is fun. Think of a villain like Cruella de Vil. The villains in the movies always have the best clothes, they always seem the coolest.” The Seduction of Kansas certainly does have this air about it. The band is doing exactly what they want, and they’re not afraid to piss anyone off in the process. On the song “Youtube Sartre,” the band takes aim at anyone opposed to their beliefs and lifestyles, particularly the perpetually-disapproving baby boomers. What’s more, the song at first sounds like a typical rock song, but beneath the buzzsaw guitar is a dainty, bizarre vibraphone plodding along largely unnoticed and underappreciated.
Unfortunately, after “Youtube Sartre,” the album begins to feel overly long. The songs themselves are good, but they just aren’t great. “I’m Clean” and “Ice Cream” are both quiet, brooding songs marked by a bass guitar lead. The songs disrupt the tone set by the record’s first three songs. The album picks up a little once it hits “Good Time Charlie,” one of its singles, and “68 Screens,” a delightfully weird track highlighted by shining synthesizer strokes and Priests’s own take on hardcore gang vocals. Outside of these two late gems though, the album fails to blow any minds. It’s by no means bad or unenjoyable, but it feels like something is missing.
On The Seduction of Kansas, Priests finds themselves in uncharted territory, taking their post-punk roots places they have never been before. They explore stadium rock, shoegaze, dance and many more genres; for the most part, it works well and there are no abysmal tracks. However, some songs fail to impress, causing the album to drag at times. Despite this, Priests still manages to create a fresh and enjoyable album that warrants several return visits.