“It’s almost like the version of Priests that made Nothing Feels Natural really died,” D.C.-based trio Priests are quoted as saying in a preview of their new album, The Seduction of Kansas. This death, which was followed by prompt rebirth, Jenn Pelly writes, came in part due to bassist Taylor Mulitz’s decision to devote himself more fully to his other project, Flasher. Priests seized the opportunity to reimagine themselves in a more poppy vein, also bringing in producer John Congleton, who has worked with artists ranging from Earl Sweatshirt to bands like Modest Mouse. The resulting sound, or at least what’s hinted at by “The Seduction of Kansas,” is something that not all listeners seem particularly thrilled about it, as evident from the comments on the YouTube upload of the music video and this thread on the r/indieheads subreddit.
To their credit, Priests anticipated the divisiveness of their new material. Back in November, vocalist Katie Alice Greer tweeted from the band’s account, “I don’t think these are the songs some of you will have *wanted* us to make, especially if you liked (Nothing Feels Natural) & just wanted (Nothing Feels Natural) 2.”
In any event, to point to the band’s reorientation towards pop as evidence — or, worse, proof — that they have “sold out” is to miss the point entirely. “The Seduction of Kansas” is accessible but ominous and, lyrically, just as politically charged as 2017’s Nothing Feels Natural, if more vaguely poetic. In the song’s music video, Greer, drummer/vocalist Daniele Daniele and guitarist G.L. Jaguar dance across various ballrooms of a Victorian estate, sometimes pausing for close-ups in which they caress the busts of white men whom I presume are now dead.
We occasionally watch the video from an additional remove, as guests in a movie theater, able to see other seats lined up before the screen. As a direct tie-in, the song’s most biting lyric comes at the end of the first verse, when Greer sings, “It’s the last picture show, all the cowboys they get ready / For a drawn-out charismatic parody of what a country thought it used to be.” It’s a line that immediately calls to mind every instance that anyone, from a powerful politician to a stranger on Twitter, has said, “This is not what America stands for!” in the past two-and-a-half years, while also addressing the tired absurdity of it all. America has been up to all kinds of skeevy bullshit for as long as it’s been around, and Priests have always been — and still are — interested in putting the mindset that ignores that fact on blast.