jason stives has you in the ‘palma’ of his hand …
To paraphrase a movie quote, 180, the debut album from London indie rockers Palma Violets, is ’80 percent physical and 40 percent mental.’
The wave of hype that the British press has given these guys, who are slowly making their way here to the States, can easily eclipse the quartet and swallow them whole. This happens to all musical darlings of the UK because there is always a blockade that prevents the interest from spreading but if done right Palma Violet might be able to get beyond it. 180 is a taught, well-spun bit of fuzzy garage rock music mixing parts Interpol with everything from The Clash to The Psychedelic Furs. Is it a perfect debut? Far from it — but it shows in spades the band’s potential.
180 starts out wonderfully with “Best of Friends,” the song New Musical Express dubbed ‘The Best Song of 2012’ and for my money its one of the most infectious tracks I have heard in recent memory (“Oblivion” by Grimes being another). The flapping backbeat combined with a jangly guitar hook rattles perfectly against lead singer Samuel Fryers wailing and crooning vocals. It’s the kind of song direct with interpretation as Fryers sings the chorus:
“I want to be your best friend/I don’t want you to be my girl.”
It’s punctual and crudely honest but on the lyrical content that as deep as it goes. That may be one of the troubling things about the bands overall songwriting skills is its very cookie cutter lyrics at times and this shows more in the latter part of the album but for seven straight songs it’s all killer and no filler.
Following “Best of Friends” with the one-two punch of “Step Up for the Cool Cats” and “All the Garden Birds” feels natural and the bands raw musicianship shows here. The dark horses of the group lie in keyboardist Jeff Mayhew and drummer William Doyle. Doyle’s drumming is bombastic but it rolls and tumbles perfectly with Mayhew’s ’80s centric keyboard riffs. The word ruckus should be used regularly in describing the sound of this record and one can assume that this is a reflection of the band’s live shows. If the gentle “Last of the Summer Wine” is the breakdown in the set than the guns blazing nature of “Tom the Drum” is the call for the audience to wake back up.
However, not all is pristine in this outing and after “Tom the Drum” the album falls off a bit in quality. Songs like “I Found Love” and “Three Stars” wreak of sloppiness and overall generic quality. This probably isn’t intentional but you feel like the band got caught up in the aroma of garage rock that surrounds the group’s material. If they can get over that hump than I can’t wait to see what the band can produce next.
In the meantime, Palma Violets have crafted a catchy debut that warrants attention but not the glory hogging that tends to erupt when a new band comes along that some pray to be the next important thing in rock music.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Pretty Good)