no. 37 — Nothing Feels Natural by Priests
My grandfather died Friday night. He was 94, it was inevitable, but it wouldn’t have happened the way it did if our current political administration didn’t take the many steps to get us to where we are today. He went into surgery for a hip replacement and got COVID while in recovery. He was asymptomatic until he wasn’t, and ultimately, he died alone in the hospital from COVID-induced pneumonia. I don’t know the last time I talked to him, and the letter I sent him when he was first hospitalized was lost when he changed hospitals. I am fucking devastated. Not just by my own failings as a grandkid, but also at the way the Trump administration has allowed every single state to react to the pandemic with their own discretion. The lack of credible knowledge, the contradicting rules, and the general inability to take anything seriously have caused my grandfather to die alone.
I haven’t really listened to music since I got the news. It’s been a confusing and sad weekend where I feel stuck in a limbo of anger and acceptance, unable to do much more than distract myself with bad TV. I haven’t felt like writing, like typing out any neat and packaged post about how I feel. But I was looking at my list of albums I want to write about for this project, and I realized that the songs I wanted to hear were the ones that best encapsulated my grief and my anger and my confusion. I mean, just take this verse from “No Big Bang”-
“I get the exhilaration, but when you look down and see the sheer stupidity of the roller coaster, just staring you in the face, as blank and inescapable as the slab of concrete below / Just waiting to catch you, to crush you, your falling body, your skull / All of the sudden all of the science and evolution and progress / I mean sure, it looks good from a distance, but when you’re really inside of it you realize it’s fucking terrifying / The inexorable pull of “progress,” when your mind keeps running along the same narrow tract of logic for what feels like forever and the developments are horrible and gruesome and haunting and your mind won’t stop and they’re there / And you can’t un-see them / How could one not be scared of that?”
This song, about the inherent pull between creativity and circling the void, this song about the dichotomy of making art in an absolutely fucked world, this song in an album released in 2017 that gives space for all the rage felt in that year, this album gives me the space to grieve my grandfather while grieving the choices my country has made to get us to where we are. Priests is so fucking good at encapsulating the agonizingly mundane nature of a capitalist system, and then saying “fuck this. It’s not working for anyone.” It feels so fucking good to yell along with them, to seethe at the unreality of the American dream in “Pink White House.” It feels like they’ve taken the anger out of my own body and put it down on the page. It feels like I don’t have to hold it by myself.
For a long time, “Pink White House” was my favorite song on this album. And I do fucking love it, it’s scathing and red hot and full of brilliance. But for right now, “No Big Bang” is the song that feels the most comfortable. Two days after the death of a loved one at the hands of an administration that doesn’t care about me or my family, I feel seen in this auditory poem of desperation and fear. Priests is on an indefinite hiatus right now, and live music probably won’t exist for a while, but I am really looking forward to whenever I can stand in a sweaty, angry crowd of people while hearing this song again. I’ve only seen them live once, but imagining myself back there is easing the hurt. Listen to Nothing Feels Natural, or their newer release from 2019, The Seduction of Kansas, here.