Palma Violets - 180 Review

Release date: Monday 25th February 2013

rating: 3.5

Each year the British music press gather to collectively invoke the spirit of Orpheus, most beloved of all musicians, in their efforts to discern which up-and-coming band should be anointed this year's 'saviour' of rock and roll. Such a label simultaneously serves as a curse and blessing, for messianic crowns are spiked with thorns and chalices emblazoned with the inscription NEXT BIG THING are sometimes tainted with poison: previous custodians of the title have imploded under the weight of expectation or failed to further bottle the magic of their first few hit singles. From time to time mediocre bands get handed the chalice and attain unwarranted levels of popularity, which goes to show that consulting with Orpheus is often an erroneous task: there can be no one saviour of rock and roll, nor indeed does indie-rock as a genre currently need saving. Enter band of the moment Palma Violets, screeching out of their dilapidated Lambeth studio (number 180, after which their debut is named) fresh from their lead single Best Of Friends being crowned NME's greatest track of 2012. Crazy really, given that they formed only seventeen months ago in September 2011, when lead singer/ guitarist Sam Fryer and bassist/ singer Chilli Jesson conceived the band, recruiting friends keyboardist Peter Mayhew and drummer Will Doyle to complete the London quartet's lineup. Most bands at their stage would be honing their chops scrambling for gigs in the capital, but Palma Violets find themselves snapped up by Rough Trade and about to release their debut album to a world waiting with bated breath. Palma Violets Band Photo180 showcases Palma Violets' magpie-like affinity for drawing on and rechanneling a vast collection of disparate influences, recalling at times Eddie Cochrane, The Doors, The Clash, The Gun Club, The Libertines, and Arctic Monkeys. Peter Mayhew's pulsating keyboard first makes its appearance on Step Up for the Cool Cats and remains for the rest of the album, serving as a welcome foil to the filthy guitars and sleazy bass, eliciting recollections of Rob Collins' simple but compelling keyboard work on The Charlatans' debut Some Friendly. Pulp's Steve Mackey serves as lead producer, and does a solid job of ensuring that the on-stage chemistry of Fryer and Jesson, frequently compared to The Libertines' Pete Doherty and Carl BarĂ¢t, is translated on to the record, though the production suffers at times from piling on too much echo and reverb. The tracks are characterised by tempo changes and frequent stops and starts, similarly reflected in the mid-song fluctuations in mood and pace employed by the vocalists. Thematic concerns are simple and unpretentious, as might be expected for a bunch of whippersnappers still green and wet behind the ears: adolescent longing for love (I Found Love's "gonna find myself a ladyfriend and stick by her until the end..."), friendships new and old (Three Stars' "gee we're gonna miss you/everybody sends their love...) and generally letting loose and having a good time (Step Up for the Cool Cats' repeated chorus of "you got me dancing in the sun..."). Lead singer Fryer's vocals are a constant highlight, conveying a maturity beyond his tender years- meandering between yelps, bawls, screams and croons- and sounding at times like a less nonchalant Julian Casablancas. Best of Friends is unquestionably the finest of the songs on show here, a rabble rousing garage-rock stomper tinged with psychedelia that showcases the album's catchiest guitars and chorus, but there are other standout moments too. Sure-to-be live favourite I Found Love finds the perfect meld of pop and rock come the chorus, all-the-while evoking visions of The Velvet Underground in a ruckus with The Strokes. Spirited album closer 14 is a worthy swansong, apparently conceived on the number 14 London night bus home which, thanks to the wonder of alcohol, remained forgotten until Fryer and Jesson recovered it in their voice-mail the morning after. The key question though is does 180 live up to the hulking level of expectation heaped on it? Of course not. Certain quarters of the music industry would you have you believe that 180 is the sound of the future being unmasked but you should be wary of such false prophets. Don't expect the aural equivalent of the Bhagavad Gita- this is not another Turn On The Bright Lights or an Is This It. What it is though is a solid rock and roll album crafted by a bunch of talented musicians finding their feet and having a damn good time in the process. And that is never a bad thing.


Key Tracks: 1. Best of Friends 2. Step Up for the Cool Cats 9. I Found Love 11. 14 Track Listing: 1. Best of Friends 2. Step Up for the Cool Cats 3. All the Garden Birds 4. Rattlesnake Highway 5. Chicken Dippers 6. Last of the Summer Wine 7. Tom the Drum 8. Johnny Bagga' Donuts 9. I Found Love 10. Three Stars 11. 14

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