TV Priest – ‘Uppers’ review: tried and tested post-punk fused with swirling psych

Their debut doesn’t expect to fix the world’s problems, but is more than happy to have a pop at it in the meantime

Post-punk has become the go-to buzzword for music that bridges the once-large gap between the angsty punk world and increasingly, well, everything else. It encompasses the art-funk tendencies of early-adopters Talking Heads to more recently, IDLES’ sharp-tongued, aggy-rock. It could be easy to eye-roll at yet another post-punk band making a statement on the world around them, but with newcomers TV Priest, at least, the satirical quips are more inspired than most.

And it doesn’t take long for them to kick in. From the first overdriven strum of bolshy opener ‘The Big Curve’ to the erratic ending plucks of ‘Saintless’, the main cohesion is the observational commentary running through each track like red tape. Some remarks are as clear as day: the chastising ‘Press Gang’, overt in its anti-Murdoch stance, sees frontman Charlie Drinkwater exasperate that “you’re better off ill-informed”, and post-Brexit nightmare, ‘This Island’, toys with the confusion. This comes with a healthy dollop of sarcasm, mind. From harping back to the good ol’ days of Joy Division with their hypnotic frenzies despite getting riled at nostalgia, to finding “joy, peace and understanding” in the Daily Mail comments section. “Laugh it up,” they snide. The targets may be obvious, but the blows still connect.

As ‘Uppers’ unfurls, the nods to a cosmic world of motorik beats are an almost perfect tribute of Julian Cope’s celebrated guide, Krautrocksampler. Under Drinkwater’s snarling vocals in the Daniel Defoe-inspired ‘Journal of a Plague Year’ (bizarrely penned pre-pandemic), there’s the psychedelic twangs of Faust, while the swelling instrumental ‘History Week’ draws on Neu!’s minimalistic ambience. It’s not all a Komische dream, though, with ‘Leg Room’ marrying together Captain Beefheart’s avant-garde blues with the chugging drums of John Cooper Clarke’s ‘Evidently Chickentown’. Then Flat Worms meets Editors bass-heavy hit ‘Slideshow’, one that’s just itching to get blasted through the speakers the UK’s sweatbox venues.

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With so many influences laid bare, it does take until seven-minute-long crescendoing closer ‘Saintless’ to truly showcase what they can achieve musically. Written by Drinkwater to digest his emotions after becoming a father, they recognise that lashing out and mocking is an easy vehicle to make sense of this messy world, but to turn inwards is just as necessary. It’s a solid and tight cry of frustration that many of us share but are unwilling, or unable, to put into words, their debut becoming less a game of ‘Spot The Influence’, and more of a subtle, yet powerful, nod to those that share similar world-weariness.

Details

  • Release date: February 5
  • Record label: Sub Pop
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