Palma Violets 180 Review

Album. Released 2013.  

BBC Review

South London quartet’s debut suggests they’ve the potential to be unstoppable.

John Aizlewood 2013

While there are few things quite so frustrating for a pop band as being perpetual also-rans, being the next big thing carries its burdens too.

Palma Violets are poised to break through courtesy of their incendiary but somewhat unsteady live shows. These ooze the off-the-wall unpredictability of The Libertines, the power of early Clash and an understanding that great music almost always requires great melodies.

Yet lassoing this magic in the studio is a different matter entirely. So many have tried, so many have failed.

But as if to show just how multi-tasking this south London quartet can be, 180 – titled after their studio, but there’s a handy darts reference there, too – captures the heroic joy of those shows, yet sounds surprisingly little like them.

Instead, with main producer Steve Mackey (of Pulp) preferring accessibility over credibility, in the studio Palma Violets jettison their ramshackle live side almost completely.

Taking their cue from the first Glasvegas album, they drape these tunes in layers of Phil Spector-style echo and allow guitarist Sam Fryer or bassist Chilli Jesson, perhaps the Strummer/Jones of this generation, to add surprisingly tender vocal croons.

Although Rattlesnake Highway overdoes the bog-standard rock mythology and I Found Love betrays a hitherto undetectable sloppiness, there’s barely a misstep.

There’s gruff but earnest longing to their debut single Best of Friends that shows they can be vulnerable (albeit with a Jesus and Mary Chain type insouciance) as much as swaggering. Step Up for the Cool Cats twangs like Gene Vincent, utilises Inspiral Carpets-style keyboards and still sounds like 2013.

Meanwhile, the closing 14 (there’s a hidden extra track, the not entirely accurately titled New Song) shows that when they expand their musical palette, go for broke and attempt an epic, they succeed with more aplomb than might be expected from ones so green.

With the ceaselessly inventive, engagingly cocksure 180, Palma Violets have given themselves a base to build a career, should they be in it for the long haul. If they continue to juggle studio and concert quite so brilliantly, they’ll be unstoppable. Let’s hope so.

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