Uppers by TV Priest album review by Adam Fink for Northern Transmissions

Sub Pop Records


TV Priest


Everything is so fucking depressing. The world is a twisted mess of injustice. The majority of the population is just trying to do their best, what little that is, in the best of times but we aren’t in the best of times. With a global pandemic raging, a botched response to every freaking problem imaginable and the fact that everyone just wants to talk over each in an endless maddening loop, it just makes things feel like they’ve never been worse.

The line of what is tolerable keeps getting pushed just a little bit further every day and as TV Priest sing on the song “Journal Of A Plague Year”, “Hey Buddy/Normalize This/You Better Get Used To It”, it seems like the only way to keep sane is to keep letting that line slide a little bit further. Even in the darkest of times, certain art will shine through and even if it’s drenched in the upsettingly “real” subject matter of the world we find ourselves in, it can still be extremely cathartic. Such is the case with Uppers, the debut album from UK’s TV Priest. The band made up of four childhood best friends, vocalist Charlie Drinkwater, guitarist Alex Sprogis, bass and keys player Nic Bueth, and drummer Ed Kelland, found themselves getting back together in late 2019 to make music after years spent apart pursuing what were supposed to be their real lives and real jobs. The album, out February 5th via Sub Pop Records, is quite possibly the ideal soundtrack to our current climate. It’s harsh, overwhelming and, honestly, pretty fucking funny.

Described as part of the UK’s burgeoning new post punk scene but more aptly TV Priest is so post punk, post hardcore, post everything, that it makes them a thoroughly modern act. Musically, Uppers trade is all churning distortion, mechanical beats and Drinkwater’s yelping talk singing throughout the running time of the album but please don’t think that this is ever boring. In fact, it’s startling that the band only ever played one show before the pandemic kicked in because these songs sound so road tested and powerful that you could imagine them to have filled so many dark, dank halls in their time that the darkness and dankness rubbed off the walls and became affixed directly onto them. Kicking off with “The Big Curve” and Drinkwater bellowing “This could be the first day of the rest of your life” over some angular guitar blasts and a rumbling bass line until the motorik drums kick in. The energy is palatable and the groove intoxicating. Like some of the better sludge-y bands around, namely Pissed Jeans and Protomartyr, you will find yourself sinking into the quicksand of their discontent. Listening to Drinkwater scream, “Where will you sit on the big curve” will make you miss the days of live shows so much as this is the type of music that you need to hear loudly in a sweaty club. “Press Gang” takes the story of Drinkwater’s grandfather’s work as a photojournalist and war correspondent in the mid part of the last century to speak on how we’ve ended up in a “post truth” world. There’s that line shifting again. The album rolls along pretty fiercely until we get to “History Week” and its ambient synth swells, which act as a nice breather before kicking right into the album standout, the grinding “Decoration” and its hilariously absurd opening line “I’ve never seen a dog do what that dog does.”

The band remains super tight and fiery throughout the album and when we get to the seven minute closer, “Saintless”, things start to really open up. The song is a letter to Drinkwater’s newborn son. It’s all about how even as parents we are fallible and the only real currency in this world Is the love that we pass on to each other. The song swells as the message becomes more succinct and you start to realize that throughout the last 40 or so minutes of Uppers,TV Priest shone a spotlight on some of the darker aspects of our shared human psyche just to let you know that maybe love is all you need. Everything is so fucking depressing, the world is a twisted mess of injustice but somewhere in the darkness there is a big, beating heart like Uppers that we can hold onto so we don’t get pulled by any constantly shifting lines.

Pre-order Uppers HERE