Unfortunately, some of my reservations with the title track to this album do expand their reach to much of the material here. At 43 minutes in length, the work almost feels like the band literally stretched out their songs. Rather than punchy, quick tempos, the band is burning slowly, leaving lead singer Katie Alice Greer out in more open spaces, which can lead to humdrum lyrical moments.
Though some of the classic Priests lyrics like “And Munayyer says Netanyahu’s actually the best thing” and “consider the options of a binary” aren’t exactly evasive and artsy, in their context they feel like important calling cards, here the effect is a bit more corrosive with lines like “it’s your movie that you wrote, starred, and directed in/I may be your muse but I’m necessary” or “No agency or complexity/Not a single feelin’ inside of me” feeling overly on the nose in the more spacey musical territories.
There’s also entire songs that honestly feel kind of cruel. Titled in reference to a book essentially about how Fox News made Middle America the main audience of the right wing, the album sometimes seems to rear its teeth at the people themselves rather than the huge conglomerates misguiding them. Yes, Youtube is probably the most toxic version of discourse to ever exist, but “Youtube Sartre” points its knife at the libertarians arguing for apathy more than the platform itself, which is more worried about regulating queer content than hate speech.
Of course, not all of these moves are really new; the title track of their last album was also slow and quiet, but its emotional openness made it feel more like a ballad than anything else. Here, their snarly jabs at dumb Americanisms never really stop and the spotlight doesn’t ever seem to be on the interior of the band. There are exceptions–“Jesus’s Son” and “Good Time Charlie” fly by and feel more lyrically nuanced and less cruel, but the album feels like a band between their punk roots and a larger rock storytelling ambitions. I think they’ll figure out how to do their thing in a new way, but it doesn’t quite feel comfortable yet.