The first thing one notices on TV Priest’s Uppers is the production quality. Something about it makes it feel like it was recorded in a sparsely populated VFW hall. The talk-singing vocals pushed to the absolute front of the mix and given some air and prominence. The approach is part lecture, part post-punk beat poetry. There is practically no melody in the singing, but the verging-on-cock-rock, lazy-mouthed delivery and call-and-repoonse-with-no-response mixes well with the driving music.
This whole post-punk style is obviously de rigueur these days, with this shouty, super-British thing popping up with IDLES, Fontaines D.C. and Sleaford Mods. It’s a seemingly simple, brutalist version of the genre that could easily go sideways and veer into parody. This is not the slick, practiced post-punk of Interpol, after all. But, weirdly, there are certainly elements of Interpol in there on songs like “Slideshow.” It’s a gamble, really. It’s rolling the dice that you’ll enjoy a very specific style of music. That you’ll enjoy a dude manhandling his bass, another stabbing at his guitar, a third sometimes giving way to stuttering drum machines and a fourth deadpan crooning in monotone over the repetitious rapture over all of it.
And, at the end of the day, I suppose I’m that audience. I love a slacker balding dude with a handlebar mustache and one of those dock worker caps. Not being English, I’m not sure what look is all about, but it seems to be the style of choice of these bands. It’s like a butch version of Freddie Mercury or leather dude from The Village People, which is confusing to me. But I’m just a straight, white Gen X dude from Los Angeles, so what do I know? Regardless, in the context of this one album, the style and songs themselves are pretty darned entertaining. The style, while not for everyone, pushes its welcome right up to the brink and rides that line through to the very end. It manages to bring in a little nostalgia of the original post-punk bands like Joy Division and carry it through to the early-aughts post-punk revival into something new and unique feeling. It is an increasingly crowded field nowadays, of course, but Uppers certainly represents the best of it to this point.