“Although there are shades of brilliance, ‘180’ is a decidedly underwhelming effort…”
Palma Violets | 180
It is rare for a band to appear on the cover of NME before their first single is released, yet alone to be proclaimed as “the saviours of guitar music”. Then again until very recently no one really knew anything about Lambeth’s Palma Violets. With no official web presence, just intense blogosphere hype, record execs had to go to the foursome’s natural habitat in the heart of South London to see what all the fuss was about.
The infamous “180” house is the building from which Palma Violets’ debut album takes it’s name, a debauched headquarters of sorts that doubled as the venue for a series of now legendary gigs, promoted only by word of mouth. With all the homegrown hype and the band’s unpredictable nature (further proved by a chaotic performance on Jools Holland), it’s really no surprise why many are pinning their hopes on this group becoming the next big thing.
This is a real shame, as although there are shades of brilliance, ‘180’ is a decidedly underwhelming effort.
The ideas Palma Violets bring to the table are raw and unmolded, and this does work to their advantage through the majority of the record. ‘Best Of Friends’ provides a raucous opening, and the track that started it all still manages to woo with it’s heartbreak vocals and visceral guitars, whilst the lead into current single ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats” keeps the listener in familiar territory.
These past singles have accustomed us to the Palma Violets philosophy, a controlled chaos tinted with jaded romanticism. However, it is tracks like “Rattlesnake Highway” that begin to show us more under the surface, as we hear early punk nuances in their frenetic style, whilst ‘Tom The Drum” has an almost rockabilly edge to it, as haranguing vocals offset pleasantly disjointed guitars. The fiery back and forth between Fryer and Jesson are clearly going to conjure more comparisons to Pete n’ Carl, as their lyrical delivery seems to present a shrewd take on love laced with an honest sense of inebriated ardour.
The calculated disorder that we’ve come to assume from Palma Violets resonates through the album, and although it’s rather charming on the singles, one finds this style gets somewhat monotonous, and as the album develops it starts to becomes apparent that they have a lot less up their sleeve than we were expecting. The unprocessed nature of their sound begins to feel contrived, and the overuse of instrumental sections in this environment gives off an almost egotistical aura, as any intricacies are polluted by the deliberately busy atmosphere. This notion is best encapsulated in closing track “14”. A rather selfish affair, over eight minutes we are given what feels like the unfinished foundations of three different songs, which comes to define the overwhelmingly rushed nature of the album as a whole. This overbearing thought prevails throughout, and one cant help but think that if this album was given more time, they would find a lot more resonance in their sound.
However, it is ultimately the hype that lets Palma Violets down on their debut LP, as one is left feeling distanced from the band’s creative mindset, like the musical equivalent of not being in on the joke. “180” doesn’t break any new ground, and fails to capture the raw intensity of their live shows. If guitar music did need “saving”, Palma Violets’ debut would suggest they’re not the band for the job. Not yet anyway.