“… from the cornfields you sing to me; all to the farmhouse born, majestic Kansan progeny … 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 …”
Somewhere between the Raid on Harper’s Ferry and a quiet riot in Thunder Alley, unraveling caucus tapestries of Americana mythology by way of character vignettes and under-rug-swept exposés, Priests unfurls the sails of Encyclopedia Titanica. Coasting along radio waves and traversing analogue transits, echoes of Chaucer’s Canterbury chronicles and the revenant of Captain John Brown’s Kansas crusade converge within a Heartland’s audiobiography of Kansabury Tales … it’s The Seduction of Kansas.
A Jaguar’s six-string static lightning pierces the narrative into play, casting our first character onto the soundstage … electroshock genesis mellows into a steady cardiac bassline, and so we meet “Jesus’ Son:”
God came to me in a dream and told me that I’m Jesus’ son
I know this world is mean it’s lucky I’m the chosen one
I walked on eggshells backwards this secret on my face
But now the earth calls me I’m feral I’m a smoking gun
He feels like the lyrical offspring of Blind Melon’s pusher prophet, somewhere lingering in the genetic lineage of Everlast’s post-Eden duality: the rural re-up. Sowing seeds of mustard gas across the prairies of Tornado Alley, so our post-punk acolytes assemble their amplified altar, serving nouveaustalgia scene in an age of apparent great apostasy.
Crimson currents siphon through ciphers of a buy-one-get-one free marketplace on the eponymous second track, establishing the General Population’s prologue and leitmotif scaffolding: the senator, news anchor, Superman, and Dorothy, all of the Sunday dress mothers, White Castle, Pizza Hut, the Koch brothers — even Applebee’s. Totem polls check the cultural pulse as Katie Alice Greer rattles off American idols like a snake charmer luring straw men from a Stetson.
Suburbia submerges in surf rocked social distortion, while dust-laced diatribes bowl through valleys of rag dolls and puppet master parables … sonically speaking.
There’s no exit as we delve into “Youtube Sartre.” This one, feels like … Socratic Siren methodology wrapped in reverse psychology — but make it usurpation of Spectacle society.
A little Youtube sartre says / There’s no way to overthrow the bourgeoisie
Except tossing a hand grenade / into your society
Don’t believe, don’t believe / Don’t believe yourself to be
A virtuous thief / Or virtuous about anything
Baby boomer please don’t play / Personal freedom’s always been ugly
Sometimes I miss those childish insecurities / My shallow feelings of superiority
We’re hell and the handbasket, aren’t we?
This, resonates like one of those: “People take Pop Culture too seriously, and not seriously enough,” moments … a metronomic note in the suggestion box reminding that, although you just have to burn down your house to feel alive sometimes, this immediate culture and context might not be one of said times — you don’t always have to kamikaze your own classroom to ignite the class coup … or, rather, better elaborated:
Doublemint-fresh Build That Fourth Wall duo, “I’m Clean” and “Ice Cream,” bring Robert’s frostier either/or to the fore of modern apocalypse ruminations. (Brief detour: I’m not entirely convinced the former doesn’t not kick-off the album tracklist’s middle six bridge of song titles that low-key legit rhyme in sequence. Phonics!) Pristine polar queens and duplicitous guardians of the gilded sentry, personifications of a fragmented polity, detached from any ostensible sense of human empathy … trickle-down affectations of jaded makeshift matriarchs, and saccharin-infused dairy — it takes a village, kids.
“Good Time Charlie” — this track is rooted in Americana mythological referential everything: Tom Hanks, Texas, hedonism, military industrial complexity, “but, then again, if you think about it…” heresy, blondes, bombshells, back-door lobbying, devil advocacy, revisionist history, good ol’ boys, covert ploys, champagne wishes, caviar schemes — even Julia Brockovich-Roberts! E, ver, y, thing (within said capacity).
Flip the script: he who has the gold makes the rules on the silver screen … but lest we forget the guise of a muse who knows her necessity, in an empire of illusion which hovers in the balance of your maintained kayfabe. Mr. DeMille, Daniele Daniele is ready for a close-up …
Ideas – you’ve projected on me
Images – you use to cover me
The bright light that obscures my being
It’s your movie
You wrote starred and directed it
I may only be your muse
But I’m necessary
… then, on the other side of cinematic looking glass, Katie Alice riffs a glimpse of penitence in the age of post-privacy.
Eighties infants are Reagan’s very own babes in Playplace; where the panopticon is our playground, and self-care sessions exist in corner closets of Real World confessionals … just beyond the curtain, on this planet of the drapes, a revelation for the record, a slice of inside-outrospective honesty, in the vein of Millennial Pop patron saint Britney, vis-à-vis: “Do I know my life is weird? It’s all I’ve ever known… I don’t see it as being weird.”
“68 Screen” and “Not Perceived” reel together like a two-part season finale where Dorothy meets Edie in a farmhouse factory … the civilian is always on stage, and said character is capital canvas, the citizen is the screen where moguls of industry project in perpetuity whichever demographic-du-jour fits their focus group’s fleeting fantasy … c’est la vie in the modern realm of entertainment reality. ( … and with that, somewhere, in Plato’s cave, or more likely ESL, a dweller DJ spins Thievery Corp.’s “All That We Perceive” into commercial break — secure the bag for Babylon, District kids.)
Strobe light back from the fade to black; where we switch the station and derange the channel alongside “Control Freak,” charging out of the woods and into the surf on the chords of G.L Jaguar’s voltaic six-string waves. Pleasure principals and entropic escapades revive phantoms of warped lullabies, akin to Sandman entering the space.
“You start to get this rhythm once a century…” and so the curtain called “Carol.” The bassline hits a familiar homeostasis, the frequency registers stenographic, the arrangement shuffles forward, pacing incrementally in pulsating rudiments, jogging through a polygraph tempo … it feels particularly cinematic — sampled for a soundtrack in a Sofia Coppola take on hidden-in-plain-sight Midwest meanderings, perhaps … at its core though, the fundamental underscore, is this inescapable aural immersion in that signature labyrinth venture, the endless pursuit of retributive justice in our coliseum of public inquisition:
To answer your question I was jogging to a strip mall
I felt nothing at all
Nothing I can recall
Besides a dollar tree, sears and Thai bistro
You start to get this rhythm once a century
Is age a barrier to intimacy?
Do you believe in vision, free elections or feeling?
“Carol” feels like the album capstone, the culmination of audiobiographic evocation … what American scene sets a more fitting finale than the courtroom, with its fluctuating scales blindly scribing more famous last sentences on American memoirs than a DeVos-era library could hope to burn. Here, the titular nomination, the carol itself, hearkens as much to the artist Irving, as it nods homage to our very own national pastime of interactive judicial theatre — where no case is complete without explicit recollections of trauma, leading the jury chorus in schadenfreude symphony.
But wait — there’s more!
Autonomy … if ever there was an As-Not-Overtly-Screamed-On-TV American Dream: thus. (And now, in yield to Equal Time, a counterpoint from The Economy: “BUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT IS A DIGITAL STARTUP, IPO, AND CORPORATE BUYOUT — DREAM BIG!”) Daniele waxes poetic over ethereal distortion of warped sublime in, what could be considered part one of The Seduction…’s tandem post-script, “Interlude: I Dream This Dream In Which My Body Is My Own…:”
A thing I made, a thing with meaning, a meaning I have created, a meaning under my own control, even after I am dead
I have this dream over and over again
I re-dream it daily in cumulative iterations with every step, every hit, every stroke, every word, and with each movement it recedes further and further into the horizon
It feels somewhat akin to “Not Perceived” reaching through a two-way mirror and finding reciprocity, or a message-in-a-bottle on the brink of that approaching horizon, just before it descends into an imperceptible abyss of the all-encompassing channel … but it’s all ebbs and flows in this celluloid world life.
Once-aquatic phantoms surface to close the show in the album’s proper finale, “Texas Instruments.” Lush harmonies buoy the Priests’ tale, recounting origin sequences of our geopolitical genetic makeup … those more indigenous hues lost in cultural amnesia’s wave of spin cycle laundering. Melodic footnotes navigate through landmarks of a memory’s museum, the epic conquest of manifest destiny … less of an immaculate conception, and more along the lines of imperialist obsession …
Give us the sound and give us the silence
Give us the sound and give us the silence
“Give us the sound, and give us the silence…” how eviscerating the boom, how extended the whisper of American history, and its self-acclaimed iteration of inherited propriety. The end is the beginning is the end is the beginning is the end, the finale is the premiere is the finale is the premiere … as we close in a setting not entirely dissimilar to that from which we commenced, the Genesis. History is written by the victors, revamped by the commander’s son, and American textbooks are drafted in Texas, where revisionists resurrect the facade of incumbent society’s chosen one. It’s all fairy tales in the Heartland, break Wonderbread and make believe.
[L]yrically, for me — it’s not so much an album about trying to be like, “This is America,” but it was about people’s perceptions and mythologies of places. I really relate to that sensibility … where you go somewhere and you’re marveling at everything around you. Maybe your perception is fake and filtered through your own ideas about things. … Then the end is a meditation on how we come up with the stories we come up with in history books. Just thinking about the official narratives of what the USA is and built on.
All of the aforementioned is to say, two thumbs fresh and a firm salute to The Seduction of Kansas. The episodic collective reminds me of a deep cut canon line from the Millennial Pop cinema classic, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, (paraphrasing):
As the old saying goes: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Well, as the new saying goes: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you want to be.”
Here, we seem to explore a hot take on the new-new standard: “Show me who your fiends are, and I’ll tell you who you want to believe;” genuflect for the polity.