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The Priests

Tall Tales

(Get Hip; US: 9 Nov 2004; UK: Available as import)

It comes in waves—groups with leather jackets, the dark shades, and the no-holds-barred rock and roll. These groups become media darlings, get signed to contracts, release a few albums, and then go away. In five years time the wave returns and so on and so on. Colin Tyranny, Matt Allyn, Lord Robb, and Billie Jacque have all the charisma of a rock band from their dry ice and attire. And hell, the publicist wouldn’t be blowing smoke up the butts of writers with lines like, ” . . . The Priests do not need rock-n-roll. Rock-n-roll needs The Priests”, would they?


Nonetheless, the Priests want to convey that image, sound, and veneer with a loud, raunchy, and boogie-infused style that brings to mind the Doors, Eric Burdon, and the Zombies. Lead singer Matt Allyn starts off lost somewhat in the mix during “Not from Me”, a deliberate track that doesn’t take too many chances, resembling an emaciated Mooney Suzuki. The jagged rock riffs one expects are instead usurped by the antiquated organ and the obligatory tambourine pounding. In spite of all this, it is still fairly good and picks up roughly two minutes in. The groove is from T.S.O.O.L. (The Soundtrack of Our Lives) University but it doesn’t lack the oomph or power that Ebbott Lundburg and company so easily transmit. By the third or fourth listen it will grow on you, but not to any great extent.


“She Don’t” fares far better with more intensity and urgency from the drop of drummer Billie Jacque’s drum sticks on the skins. The fuzzed-out guitars are present but presented in a low-key kind of way. It’s as if they’re building the listener for something explosive and monumental, but still keep you waiting for the one great moment. They play it far too safe here. Unfortunately, that song looks like a winner compared to “Going Back Home”, a track that sounds like a cross between the Doors’ “Alabama Song” and some rudimentary polka. What is also disappointing is that you think the group has it in them to break out, but it hasn’t happened yet. The bridge opens the group up into a likeable psychedelic jam, but played too close to their musical vests. The first sign of any edge or bite comes during the unlikely titled “Wayward Waltz”. Here, Allyn is quite strong despite the rather ordinary or laissez-faire blueprint. Tyranny offers a few adequate licks but it’s a missed opportunity at truly nailing the tune.


The highlight of the nine-track album is a tribal stomping “More” that is fuelled by high energy and a great hook that builds and builds. If you were comparing it to a car, the song hits third gear consistently with a few fleeting moments of fourth. Nothing cute, just a solid rock tune which more than satisfies! What irritates the hell out of me, though, is how with a little effort these songs could turn heads, but the Priests often seem to take the easier road. This is especially evident on “Undone”, which bubbles to the surface before sliding back down quite a few notches. They attempt to go into a rave up near the end, but too little too late. “While I Walk Away” realizes the group’s potential despite the rather pedestrian pace and quasi haunting, mostly cheesy organ hues.


The Priests find their footing with the last two tracks, a ballsy “Baby Doll” that has all the snarls and sneers at the right boogie-inducing, hip-shaking places. And “Take What You Bring”, despite being a lazy little seven-minute trot, manages to find the groove and roll with it. The Priests aren’t that high yet, but if they could just push themselves a bit more they would certainly distinguish themselves from the other garage band laity.

Rating:

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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