3 May 2015

Palma Violets / Danger In The Club (album review)

Another over-hyped NME buzz band? Hell no, London-quartet Palma Violets have coolly downplayed any potential hype surrounding them to establish themselves as one of the UK's most solid indie bands. Unlike the likes of Catfish & the Bottlemen, Foals, and Circa Waves, the more traditional of the current indie scene's 'hype bands' Palma Violets' sound is rooted well away from the early noughties and deep in Cali surf rock and CBGB's punk rock.

The follow-up to 180, their acclaimed debut, Danger In The Club comes out this Monday, and for me it aims to advance the full-throttle punk-rock elements that are highly present in their live shows, that are only underlying on 180. I think, yeah, 180 was a very good debut; full of fantastic pop songs, well arranged, but altogether a bit too well-groomed for a band famed for playing impromptu gigs of (Canadian 70's punk band) Hot Nasties covers. However though, that raw sound that Palma Violets have has forced it's way through here.

The album is littered with highlights, with a handful of potential singles floating around. The best of these could be Girl You Couldn't Do Much Better (On The Beach); it sounds like a Mick Jones-sung Clash song, with the band motoring along with a lot of energy, doing exactly what 180 failed to do; capture the gusto of the live show, before it abruptly fizzles out like A Forest by The Cure. Similarly, Gout! Gang! Go! is a belter, powered by a Chilli Jesson bassline that's all over the shop and a chorus that's close enough to a football chant to please the proper lad demographic of the Palmas.

Over the past couple of years, Palma Violets have lazily been compared over and over to The Libertines. I mean, yeah. They've got two frontmen... and uhhh, they're both bands? The most of this album completely defies that, with straight-up door-smashing dinner-bringing rough guitars that have the musical clout of 1000 Libertines. But on one occasion, they let that slip; Secrets Of America just sounds so Libertines. It's a combo of the up-down intonation patterns, the way that the frontmen toss the vocal parts between each other, and the slight euphoria of the middle 8 guitar part. Whilst maybe this wouldn't be a great touch if the rest of the album sounded like The Libertines, but with the rest of the album being a bit of an homage to the surfers and the new wavers, it's a bit of an indie rock gem.

I've already mentioned the definite punk rock influence, but it's the main focal point of the Palma Violets sound. Hollywood is a sister piece to The Ramones' version of California Sun (which PV covered as a b-side), and Peter and the Gun has that stand-offish feel that the first few Bunnymen albums has. However, despite this, the lyrics generally stray closer to the topics of drinking alcohol, and awkward relationships and whatever, instead of any issues tackled by punk rock. There's no anarchy, there's no politics, and there's just a general depthlessness to the lyrics of a lot of the songs. The consequence? Well, Danger In The Club isn't a bona fide punk record, and that might alienate some of the target audience, but that's largely okay, Palma Violets don't want to form a new world order with their new LP. No, Palma Violets just want to have make a fun, energetic indie rock record, and that's just what they've done. It's almost meaningless chaos, it's throwaway punk, and that's what makes it such an enjoyable listen.

But to compliment the straight out Television pastiche, on lots of songs (English Tongue, Matador), Pete Mayhew's keys ensure that this is a brilliant sounding record. In the late 60's and 70's, the likes of The Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers, The Seeds, The Doors and The Strangers used keyboards/organs to compliment guitars perfectly, and this is the case again, it's probably the best feature of the album. English Tongue's punchy gospel organ is punchy in the same way that Liar Liar by The Castaways is, and it has lyrics that are literary and narrative, and therefore all the better. I didn't like it at first, but it's a fantastic track that closes the album in style.

I'll be honest; it's not all brilliant. Some songs are so weak, and almost parodies of the surf-punk they so successfully pay homage to on most of the album. Walking Home is an overproduced, lazy bassline-driven song with some of the most unimaginative lyrics you've ever heard. And on the opposite end of the scale, Matador is just a bit of a mess, all the instruments swirling around together to create some sludgy dissonance. And ummm, the 23 second drunken chanting, Sweet Violets, that opens the album? What's with that?!

But what, that's just a few weak tracks. The rest of Danger In The Club is a choc-a-block with brilliant, chaotic, drunken, stomping pop songs. You'd struggle not to get straight into the raw surf of Hollywood, the menacing grit of Danger In The Club, or the all round brilliance of Secrets of America, Gout! Gang! Go! or English Tongue. I think on this album, Lambeth's finest have gone for a much rawer sound, and they're all the better for it.


You can't stream it officially yet, but we had a look 'round and someone's uploaded it to their soundcloud... (we'll update this when there's something a tad more official, but seriously you've got to hear this album) 

[written by calum cashin]