Album Review: TV Priest - 'My Other People'

TV Priest are an English 4 piece formed in London in 2019. Dubbed post-punk by critics, the band has quickly amassed a devoted following, releasing an impressive debut album 'Uppers', last year. Now TV priest return with a full length follow up. The Mic's Caradoc Gayer shares his thoughts on 'My Other People'.


London band, TV Priest are a unique case within the relatively-overcrowded, UK post-punk revival scene. Unlike the loose movement’s iconic twentysomething bands from the same city, like Black Midi or Black Country New Road, TV Priest are all in their thirties. They emerged onto the UK indie consciousness during the pandemic, having hitherto played only one gig in a Hackney warehouse.


"Over the propulsive instrumental, Drinkwater’s lyrics maintain a contrasting sense of lethargy, as he discusses emotional deterioration..."

With bassist Nic Bueth producing their music, and vocalist Charlie Drinkwater writing uniquely absurdist, highly-political lyrics, the band’s DIY ethos earned them a signing on the famed Seattle based label Sub-Pop. They went on to release their 2021 debut Uppers: a joyously unhinged set-of-songs, fizzing with roaring guitar crescendos and nostalgia for 1970s krautrock and punk rock. When I began listening to their second record: My Other People, I hoped that it would evidence some growth for the band whereby, in accordance with their influence outside of the London scene, they might reshape the post-punk formula into something that’s totally distinctive to them.


Charlie Drinkwater seems ambitious for his band to develop in this way. He’s described the record: ‘In the process of writing [My Other People], we found ourselves talking about things other than anger. We wanted to discuss love, loss and joy… it’s also heavily rooted in place, the music being a very direct response to Britain and England in 2021, but in a more abstract and textural sense.’



One Easy Thing, the album’s opening song, embodies these ideas: slow and uncertain metallic bass guitar textures erupt into a jagged guitar and steady-danceable drum rhythm. Over the propulsive instrumental, Drinkwater’s lyrics maintain a contrasting sense of lethargy, as he discusses emotional deterioration: ‘I’m reaching, I’m stumbling over my own feet.’ ‘I need to sleep so very, very deeply. For a post-punk album, it’s an unexpectedly tender opening. Likewise, the emotionally stirring music video enhances the song’s themes: in it, Drinkwater acts as a wounded medieval knight sheltering in a forest shack and busting some moves to TV Priest, before he lies down to rest and ‘sleep deeply’ (take it as you will).


Next, we have Bury Me in My Shoes, which feels just as lyrically universal. The fluttering synthesizers and rumbling guitar tones feel evocative of storms, rainclouds, or perhaps a grey quayside scene like we see on the album art. Meanwhile, Drinkwater sings melancholy lyrics of subtle beauty, like ‘The old man sang, ‘life only comes in flashes of greatness,’’ and references 19th century English colonialists, ‘with my Sam Browne on, in the corner of this field, no guts no glory.’ Perhaps both Sam Browne and the One Easy Thing knight represent the traditional English masculinity, which Drinkwater is hoping to explore and deconstruct?


"My Other People sets TV Priest on a hugely compelling musical trajectory."

Broadly, the album maintains this sense of melancholy. However, there are moments of levity, ‘flashes of greatness’ if you will, like in Limehouse Cut. In this track, Drinkwater narrates a walk beside the titular East London canal, presumedly with a loved one, who invites him to ‘follow me down to the seashore, follow me and we could wash in the waves’, away from oppressive urban environments where ‘buildings go up in an instant’. Coinciding with these lyrics, strings start to overpower the sluggish guitar rhythms, conveying a moment of release from the relentless despair of One Easy Thing and Bury Me in my Shoes. I’m a sucker for songs about how nature can heal you, so Limehouse Cut easily became one of my favourites.


What can’t go unmentioned about Drinkwater’s song-writing style is his aptitude for writing simple but profound lyrics about mental fortitude. In the acoustic-guitar-led The Happiest Place on Earth, Drinkwater describes himself ‘on the edge of the world,’ then yells out ‘I’m in the happiest place on earth. God knows I waited!’, emphasising the album’s themes of place and geography. Later, we’re treated to The Breakers, one of the album’s best tracks, in which Drinkwater is concerned more with the present than with the past. He sings ‘I’ve been waiting to see my name in lights outside. I’ve been waiting. It was better than that. I’ve got friends. Good friends,’ whilst the joyous guitar riff bubbles underneath like a surging river, before the song explodes into a soul-shaking shoegaze-influenced breakdown.



Unfortunately, some songs have less emotional poignancy than others do. In It Was a Gift and My Other People Drinkwater’s lyrics feel a little bit too stream-of-consciousness, and the refrain of the former song: ‘I read about it, so it must be true,’ feels more like it would fit into the anti-establishment tone of Uppers than the tone of this album. The rest of the band also stick within their comfort zone: both songs stick to Joy-Division-influenced basslines and traditionally post-punk-sounding, muted guitar patterns. The band might have indulged a little more in the Brian-Eno-esque, ambient pianos and synths on songs like It Was Beautiful and Sunland, which indicate some interesting sonic pathways they could have gone further down.


However, despite these small pitfalls, My Other People sets TV Priest on a hugely compelling musical trajectory. The record has a surety of purpose; it showcases the talents of a band who are absolutely certain of what they want to sound like, and are hugely skilled at enhancing the emotionally affective storytelling of their lead vocalist. The album has a sense of haunting melancholy that, for me, somewhat evokes Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth. It’s a play set in the south of England, that follows a homeless drug-dealer and storyteller, whose deteriorating lifestyle works as a metaphor for the state of England. My Other People has a similar kind of story thread, albeit one that can be interpreted in many different ways: an impressive feat for a band in the early stages of their career. Who knows where TV Priest will take their music next, as they follow the ‘Limehouse Cut’ to strange and exciting new places?


Caradoc Gayer

 

Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of TV Priest via Facebook.