Song You Need to Know: Priests’ Disco Cover of Danzig’s ‘Mother’

Danzig’s “Mother” is a great song, but more importantly, it’s a great song that lends itself well to covers. A heavy-metal track about censorship with a melody that wouldn’t be out of place in a Supremes song, “Mother” has been covered by everyone from Sleater-Kinney and Coheed and Cambria to Ryan Adams and Wye Oak since it debuted in 1988. (The more well-known version of the song, “Mother ’93,” came out five years later.)

Priests, the DIY band from D.C. who released The Seduction of Kansas earlier this year, released their own version of “Mother” on Friday and, in their words, “made it disco.” Though the Priests sound often gets grouped into punk or art-rock, this is far from the band’s first disco homage. “Suck,” the closing track from their 2017 album Nothing Feels Natural, calls to mind the spartan four-on-the-floor beats of ESG, and several call-and-response tracks on The Seduction of Kansas resemble a stripped-down version of the B-52’s dance-rock.

The band’s “Mother” cover follows a similar path, at least for its dubby middle third. The track begins with a wall of sci-fi synths and layered vocals from singer Katie Alice Greer, but that quickly drops away like a curtain to reveal a hollowed-out cowbell, shakers and vibrating strings. Priests slow “Mother” down to a menacing creep, and Greer keeps her voice to a throaty whisper right up to the exploding chorus, at which point the song gradually adds on layers of snarling guitar, bass, drums and an urgent horns section. By the time “Mother” comes to a close, the cover has transformed into a steady march towards hell, led on by Greer’s wails. This is still disco, sure, but it’s disco that wants you to dance for your life.

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