Before they were earning raves for their full-length debut, Nothing Feels Natural, raved about by me here, D.C.'s own Priests were crafting idiosyncratic and abrasive stabs of post-punk, the results poised somewhere between the earliest, roughest bits of harDCore and maybe those first Wire records.
That comparison is an awkward one but I think if you listen to Early Recordings, out tomorrow on Tough Love Records, you'll get what I mean. The release, timed for Record Store Day 2017, collects the first bits of this band's sound ever committed to tape. That not all of it is accessible shouldn't be a surprise as the group, from the word "go", was an uncompromising lot.
From the somewhat strident, decidedly political "Diet Coke" and "USA", and on to the more poised, even Joy Division-ish, riffs of the down-tempo "Talking", the material compiled here reveals a band -- even in its earliest version of just a few years ago -- in command of its unique musical vocabulary. "Cobra" and "Say No" bridge the early scratchings of the Dischord pioneers with the sort of shouty punk that burst out of England in the late Seventies. The 2 most revealing cuts on Early Recordings are, perhaps, "Leave Me Alone", all Peter Hook-riffs ridden into a dark place, and "Lillian Hellman", a more direct form of punk closer to what bands like Fugazi and (even) Shudder To Think once unveiled here in this city.
What's apparent from a quick listen to Early Recordings is that Priests were, from the outset, combining a series of disparate influences from both the rich heritages of this city (D.C.) and that of the U.K. with the result equaling a significant advancement of both harDCore as well as American post-punk in general.
[Photo: me, at 03/11/17 Priests show at Black Cat D.C.]