Single of the Week: Priests – Radiation/Personal Planes 7″ (Sister Polygon)
By Erika Elizabeth
About a month ago, I got an email out of the blue from this band Priests from Washington DC, after they had been passed my contact information by a mutual friend who had suggested they get in touch with me about setting up a Western Mass show for them on their winter tour. Booking shows for something like 10 years has turned me into a bitter shell of a human being in a lot of ways, because when I read emails from bands inquiring about setting up a show at the space that I book, I very often have an immediate visceral reaction and I want to run far, far away (if you’ve never been in the position of being asked by strangers to help their band get a show, read this and maybe you’ll start to empathize).
Unlike most of the bands whose booking requests I end up wading through, Priests had a couple of things going for them – our mutual friend is in a band who put out one of my favorite records of the last couple of years and she’s also a genuinely nice person who wouldn’t send a band my way that I was going to absolutely loathe, so I was inclined to trust her judgment. They had my attention.
I listened to their debut cassette (available digitally via Bandcamp), and not only did I not absolutely loathe it, I liked it. I liked it so much that I threw away three months of self-imposed show booking celibacy to set up a gig for them. It was unpolished, stripped down – guitar, drums, microphone. Cutting everything down to the bare essentials. Connecting the dots from early 80s No Wave to early 90s Riot Grrrl, but most importantly, extending that line, making new shapes rather than replicating the patterns that have been created before. It was serendipitous, this band seeking me out (rather than the other way around). I was excited.
And then even more exciting – this single just appeared, released in conjunction with the aforementioned Priests tour. It starts as an exercise in minimal repetition. A raw female voice shouts about television screens and radiation over solitary, metronomic kicks on a bass drum. Subdued guitar builds up ominously in the background as the voice grows louder, more impassioned, more wild, culminating in around 30 seconds of careening noise before crashing to a halt. Second song kicks in. Katie sneers into the microphone, conjuring the spirit of Lydia Lunch as she spits out a rant listing signifiers of their DC roots – Air Force One, the FBI and the CIA – while Daniele and Gideon intensify the feeling of paranoia, all bashing drums and distorted guitar that repeatedly fall apart and weave back together.
Pay attention, because this single was brought into the world two weeks before 2012 collapses under its own weight, too late to make the highlight reels from the past year, but not too early to shove us headfirst into the next – this is the vibrant howl and clatter of the underground in 2013, and hopefully Priests are going to continue connecting the dots, extending those lines further and further.