Album Review: Katie Alice Greer – Barbarism

[FourFour; 2022]

The Washington D.C. punk band Priests were one of a kind. Not many could combine the best parts of 80s and 90s punk and actually produce something worthwhile, but they did it. They released their second album The Seduction of Kansa, in 2019, before going on indefinite hiatus later in the year, unfortunately.

One of the most dynamic aspects of Priests was Katie Alice Greer, their charismatic, outspoken twisted cheerleader of a lead vocalist. Greer owned the stage in live performances, limping around like a wounded dog one moment, screeching into fans’ faces with primal vitriol the next. She is now is back with her first solo album after years of EPs under the KAG moniker (which she had to abandon after it became associated with Trump supporters’ slogan Keep America Great).

Barbarism marks a tonal shift for Greer, one that could have been predicted in the breadcrumbs she left us to follow via her social media reels and Bandcamp one-offs. Her muse naturally comes from all sectors of the world, particularly politics, gender roles, oppression – all the vital topics she addressed in Priests. Although the caveat is that now it’s entirely her voice, her thoughts, her feelings, all bubbling out.

Barbarism is much further from the sound of a Priests record than expected, and it’s further proof that the Greer isn’t interested in repeating the past over and over again. She often leaves guitar chords aside in favour of industrial sounds, unsettling atmospheres, and deadpan delivery. Not since the days of bedroom albums by Atlas Sound has a self-produced solo record sounded so lush and yet full of unrestrained pessimism.

Greer says the things we’re thinking, but are too afraid to say out loud. Not only is she content to thrust the truth on us, she’s willing to impale herself with it, “Now I’m an undertaker… and I never wanted to be,” she admits on opening unconventional popper “FITS/My Love Can’t Be”. “Flag Wave” parts one and two, which refuse to assimilate into any one style, pinpoint faux patriotism, with the echoing refrain “so be kind to” acting as the knife that unendingly twists.

On “Fake Nostalgia”, she goes for the groin of those who long for “a simpler time”. Those old days aren’t so peachy keen in retrospect, and Greer’s more than happy to point that out, whether it be for a bunch of Facebook boomers complaining about modern music, or the parents trying to navigate the numerous gender identities they just don’t “get”.

Greer’s not a savior though, and she doesn’t position herself as such in any form on Barbarism. She’s just as critical of herself as she is of everyone else, but she won’t rest until the world is better. She believes that we’ll always need to be improving, relentlessly.