Katie Alice Greer | Barbarism | FourFour Records

Review: Katie Alice Greer – Barbarism

National Music Reviews

Katie Alice Greer

FourFour Records
Street: 06.24
Katie Alice Greer = PJ Harvey + Nitzer Ebb + Earthling-era David Bowie

Katie Alice Greer moved to Los Angeles just weeks before COVID-19 hit. She quickly found herself alone in the City of Angels at the trigger point of the pandemic. Previously, Greer had been touring continuously with her criminally underrated D.C. post-punk band, Priests, on the back of three standout records: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014), Nothing Feels Natural (2017) and The Seduction Of Kansas (2019).

Barbarism is a true solo effort. It is written, performed, produced and mixed entirely by Katie Alice Greer, Prince style. She creates walls of sound consisting of repeated synth lines, pulsing beats of percussion, fuzz, feedback, drips, blips and random dialogue. In her isolation, Greer channels her inner Bowie and proves she’s willing to go Low and Blackstar to find the soul of a song. The track “Captivated” is pure sci-fi, L.A.-noir, Blade Runner on the west coast bliss. Greer’s stream of consciousness lyrics and haunted vocals unfold like echoes that make the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention. It’s creepy and cool, just like the city Barbarism was birthed in.

On “FITS/My Love Can’t Be,” Greer sings about an Orwellian surveillance state: “We want no observations / We want no questions please / See something? Say nothing / Unless it’s to the police,” Greer sings with the proper paranoia and rattled nerves. She’s a shock-rocker futurist singing over beats that sound like an end-of-the-world disco. This track is a schizophrenic milkshake that Greer sticks in your head like a bubble gum ABBA song.

The closest thing to a pop song on Barbarism is the melancholic easy drift of “Dreamt I Talk To Horses.” Greer sings heavy lyrics like a mid-afternoon lazy yawn, “I’m not as steady as you think I am you know / You throw punches like you think there’s metal in my bones,” and, “Like a cancer it’ll grow / Tumors coming out now.” She masterfully weaves the refrain of “Say stay, sugar” in and out like a majestic weed holding everything beautifully together.

Greer turns the 11 songs on Barbarism into world building: 11 worlds, 11 houses and 11 rooms. Each song has its own specific creation and its own specific space—sometimes a Twilight Zone episode (“Fake Nostalgia”), sometimes depression (“Flag Wave pt. 2”), sometimes self-doubt (“A Semi Or A Freight Train”). I mentioned Prince above, with Barbarism, Greer has mirrored the artist’s Sign o’ the Times masterpiece. Locked down in an apartment in the second-most populated city in the country, Greer took all the music in her head and shoved it into a meat grinder. The miracle of it all is that somehow she pulled out flowers. There have been many lockdown records, and this will not be the last, but it’s a good one. In fact, Barbarism is a great one! –Russ Holsten

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