FIVE DOLLAR PRIEST - Five Dollar Priest (Bang! Records)
This record sounds like the gentrification of New York City's Lower East Side never happened.

If the name tells you that this is some variant on Christian rock, cash-in your ticket to the resurrection for a refund from any of the usual outlets or go back to the psychiatrist to look at more of those ink blots that reminded you of your mother and a sailor.
It's one warped and whacky church that the Five Dollar Priest congregation claims membership of. The priest's robes are more than likely caked with vomit and you're not getting me to sip that cup of confessional wine until the guy before me gets his mouth autoclaved.

Five Dollar Priest is the place where anarchic blues-swamp rock meets early '80s NYC No Wave. The collision is not pretty, but try as you might you just can't divert/avert your eyes. Just clean the blood and flecks of brains off your jacket when you leave the basement, OK?

The pedigree of Five Dollar Priest is indicative of what to expect. Vocalist Ron Ward comes from Speedball Baby, while guitarist Norman Westberg was in Swans, Foetus, Sulfur and Heroine Sheiks. Drummer Bob Bert was in the early line-up of Sonic Youth before joining Pussy Galore. There's some beefy bass and atonal clarinet in there too. It's not as white cat funky as James Chance and the Contortions but there are shades of Steel Tips, Dim Stars, Lubricated Goat and the aforementioned Pussy Galore. Plus some early Kim Salmon and the Surrealists, if they'd grown up on Avenue A.

"This town is full of piss...and broken hearts," Ward declares on "Decatur Street" as carnivalesque keyboards and Bert's massive swing carries the song to the edge of a precipice before it's pulled back. Ward ends up complaining about Florida at the end and I can sympathise after spending a week there. At least it wasn't the Queensland Gold Coast. That this song is my favourite says more about me not getting out enough these days.

"Bobby Chen" is a creeping conga line of bad news littered with leaking feedback and snaky percussion while "Cunty Lou!!" is an amphetamine country shuffle express train that barely stays on the tracks before rolling to a halt.

"Fingered" is acrid blues rock and not a million miles from mid-period Beasts of Bourbon before they became they became heavyweight contenders. Less said about "Ghost of Bob Ross" the better. Mental illness is often not pretty.

On no account should you take bad drugs or drink cask wine to get in the mood to listen to this record. Something tells me the boys from Five Dollar Priest used up all the supplies anyway.

Step right up for an aural mugging.
- The Barman

1/2

 






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