When Priests formed in 2012, they were just a four-piece riot grrrl-influenced punk band from Washington, D.C., hawking self-made cassette tapes and 7-inch vinyl records. They upgraded to CDs with their 2014 EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power, but it’s their sound that has changed the most in their latest release, Nothing Feels Natural.
Sporting more polished, less distorted production, Priests has navigated away from the chaotic musical confines of pure punk and dipped its toes in a variety of other genres, like surf-rock, glam-rock, and even a bit of indie-pop. First-person narrative songs about the pros of being a loner, lame friendships, and relationships that force you to be meaner than you want proliferate throughout the album, and there’s no shortage of biting and hilarious lines.
“Jj,” a rollicking ditty reminiscent of Shannon and the Clams, takes the cake for best quips, with lead singer Katie Alice Greer spewing lyrics like, “You were just a rich kid low-life in a very big jacket in a very big way” and “The most interesting things about you / Was that you smoked Parliaments, the babiest cigarettes.” Burger King gets a shoutout in the frenetic, drum-heavy track “Puff” — “My best friend says, ‘I want to start a band called Burger King’ and I say ‘Do it’ / Make your dreams a reality” — and there’s even an attention-grabbing, string-centric musical interlude that sounds like it would be better suited for the soundtrack of that 2005 Keira Knightley-starring version of Pride and Prejudice.
On the whole, Priests may have toned down the punk elements in their music, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still punk AF at heart.
With Stef Chura, Quaaludes, and the World, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19, at Starline Social Club in Oakland; $11-$13; starlinesocialclub.com