|Palma Violets — 180 |
Palma Violets — 180
• With just a handful of songs, Palma Violets are setting hearts a-flutter.
• “We formed the band out of a frustration" Sam Fryar
Location: Lambeth, Central London, England
Album release: February 25, 2013
Record Label: Rough Trade
01. Best Of Friends (3:31)
02. Step Up For The Cool Cats (3:08)
03. All The Garden Birds (3:10)
04. Rattlesnake Highway (2:36)
05. Chicken Dippers (3:09)
06. Last Of The Summer Wine (4:10)
07. Tom The Drum (2:33)
08. Johnny Bagga' Donuts (3:08)
09. We Found Love (3:16)
10. Three Stars (3:52)
11. 14 (8:06)
• Sam Fryer (vocals, guitar)
• Chilli Jesson (vocals, bass)
• Pete Mayhew (keyboards)
• Will Doyle (drums)
Alexis Petridis (Rating: ***)
• The Guardian, Thursday 14 February 2013 16.11 GMT
• One year in, the music press's campaign to insist that – despite all evidence to the contrary – we're living through a golden age for indie rock seems to be gathering momentum. Its undisputed leader was once the NME, which boldly announced last year that ours was "a glorious time when rock and roll proves the doubters wrong". Over the ensuing 12 months, their covers have certainly proved their point. Out went heritage-rock nostalgia, middle-aged men and artists who reached their apex at least 20 years ago, the better to concentrate on the plethora of thrilling new alt-rock artists who have gripped the nation's imagination: Joy Division, Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, Noel Gallagher (four times), the Sex Pistols, John Lydon from the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Blur, the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, the Libertines, Paul Weller (twice), the Cure, David Bowie, the Stone Roses (four times) and the Ultimate Band, which, as far as could be gathered from the cover, included only those over 40 or dead.
• More recently, however, other areas of the press seem to have mounted a challenge to the NME's supremacy in the area of pretending things are happening that patently aren't. "Indie-rock suddenly feels like an uninterrupted, unstoppable force," thunders one music mag this month. "It is self-healing, indestructible." As evidence for its claim it proffers not merely the Vaccines but also Toy, an authentically fantastic band whose unstoppability was demonstrated when their debut album reached No 48 for one week last September.
• The latter remark comes in a review of Palma Violets, the London quartet whose lot it is to be this year's Anointed Saviours of Indie. A grand total of 16 months after they formed, their debut album arrives freighted with media anticipation. You can see why the press has latched on to them. They're young, they talk a good fight in interviews, there's an intriguing on-stage chemistry between frontmen Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer, and they had a strong debut single in last year's Best of Friends: three and a half minutes of clangorous guitars and bellowed vocals.It perhaps sounded more like the kind of decent indie track that used to fetch up at No 13 in John Peel's Festive 50 than the Best Song Of 2012, as it was garlanded by NME, but you couldn't deny the walloping power of its chorus.
• It would be lovely to report that 180 meets the expectations that have been heaped upon it. The charts could probably use an exciting new guitar band: it's not as if the current dominant forces – post-Guetta rave-pop and earnest acoustic whimsy – are the most bewitching developments in musical history, and there are impressive things about Palma Violets, not least the appealingly rackety sound they've settled on. Drowning in reverb, the trebly guitars, reedy 60s garage-rock organ and clattering drums seem to teeter perpetually on the verge of collapse, a sensation amplified by Pulp bassist Steve Mackey's production, which smothers each song in distortion of varying degrees of severity: from a light sprinkling of period fuzz on the 50s-influenced Three Stars, to Rattlesnake Highway, which sounds like it has been dipped in a corrosive substance.
• The problem lies with the songs themselves. There are certainly moments when the writing sparks: the New Orderish riff of Chicken Dippers crashes into an addictive chorus; Step Up for the Cool Cats maroons a fragmented ballad over see-sawing organ and explosions of frenetic drumming. But they are outweighed by moments where things seems to gutter in a mass of half-formed ideas. It's a sense heightened by the Palma Violets' tendency to write episodic songs, packed with stops and starts and shifts in tempo and mood. Over its three minutes, I Found Love offers up a pop chorus, some anguished screaming, a sudden slump in pace, the riff from the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane, and a heartbroken coda. There's nothing wrong with trying to break free of the standard verse-chorus song structure, but the problem here is that none of it gels together, leaving you with the distinct impression of a band throwing disparate ideas at the wall in the hope that some of them stick.
• Throwing disparate ideas at the wall is something all artists do while they're still finding their feet. The sneaking suspicion that there's something a little undercooked about the music on 180 is ramped up further by the closing 14, which apparently originated with Fryer drunkenly singing it into Jesson's phone while on the bus hymned in the title, and which segues into the secret track New Song. It is, apparently, the first song they wrote – and it sounds like it. You do wonder that no one around the Palma Violets suggested they lay off making an album until they had come up with some songs a bit better than those.
• Quite why they didn't is a nice question. It's not the Palma Violets' fault they've been pitched, half-formed, into a climate so desperate it has turned delusional, determined to insist they're something they patently aren't, at least not yet. The infuriating thing is that 180 isn't a bad album: there's something there, but it needs time to develop. Whether they'll get it is another matter entirely, which seems stupid. But as a quick glance at certain areas of the music press confirms, we live in stupid times.
• Le nouveau groupe anglais a la mode, peut-etre en raison de ses influences piochées dans ce qui se fait de meilleur dans le rock anglais, sans oublier quelques références du rock US.
• Un rock a la fois énergique et mélodique. A découvrir.
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• For a long time if you wanted to hear the most exciting new band in Britain, you knocked on a tall black door off the Lambeth Road. An aging British Rail building - part art studio happening, part squat – Studio 180 was where south London’s Palma Violets were gestating, away from sunlight and the world at large. A thrilling rock'n'roll four piece channelling The Clash, ? And The Mysterions and the Bad Seeds, from September 2011 they were holed-up here writing songs "their friends could dance to" and occasionally putting on celebratory, ecstatic parties about which word quickly spread.
• It should be noted that the news of these parties / shows was spread in a manner that harks back to the days before the internet – aka “word of mouth.” For until a couple of months ago, Palma Violets had no online presence, no music recorded, and no press team working for them, “We didn’t want to put ourselves on Facebook, Youtube or the internet because we hadn’t recorded any songs,” explains singer Sam Fryers. “We were making this noise together in a room for fun and that’s where you had to experience it.”
• If you got through the door of Studio 180 in that early period, what greeted you was an intoxicating sense of chaos. Beer being sold out of a dustbin in a makeshift kitchen, experimental artwork protruding from every wall, kids milling about, seemingly all friends, just waiting for the moment the band would start to play, normally around 11 at night, but sometimes a whole lot later.
• In an airless basement that could hold 50 people, the band would finally appear in a hail of feedback and organ noise, before blazing their way through a short, incredible set: their sound a primitive, wild rock’n’roll music offering echoes of ‘60s garage and soul but with a defiant Englishness at its core, the band themselves radiating a ferocious energy, encapsulated in the tense and tactile interplay between bassist Chilli Jesson and Fryer but driven forward by the incessant beat of Will Doyle’s drumming. After a period of parching drought in British guitar music, this was akin to stumbling across the oasis in the desert just before you and everyone else died of dehydration
“The best way to see a rock’n’roll band is to go and see them play live,” elaborates bassist Jesson. “That’s all we wanted people to do.” “And of course, we hate being in recording studios,” laughs Fryer.
• Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for record labels to catch on and in the first few months of 2012, Palmas Violets were courted intensely. From the outset, though, they only ever wanted to sign to one, and that was Rough Trade. As Jesson recalls, “When Rough Trade came down, it was so special. It was like they restored our faith in music. I mean they actually talked about music for a start. Geoff Travis was the only person who picked up on the fact that we were doing a cover of The Riveiras’ ‘California Sun’. The other guys talked about supermarkets and shelving and how we were going to penetrate the market.”
• The feeling was mutual, as Rough Trade bosses Jeannette Lee and Geoff Travis are quick to point out. “There’s a difference between trying to do something and actually doing it,” notes Travis succinctly. “The Palma Violets just have it.” Adds Lee, “It may sound corny but it really is to do with the chemistry of the group. In a whole lifetime of listening to music, you probably come across something this special about 10 times ever, that special glue that holds a classic band together. I knew as soon as I saw them that they had to be with us.”
• It was Rough Trade then that released the band’s debut single last fall. The A-side “Best Of Friends” is a raucous and exhilarating blast of primal rock’n’roll, featuring Jesson singing the lead. The B-side “Last Of The Summer Wine” – recorded later with Pulp’s Steve Mackey – showcases the other side of the band, drenched as it is in keyboard player Peter Mayhew’s oscillating organ surges and singer Fryers’ heavily reverbed and deeply evocative vocal.
• When it came time to record the album Palma Violets headed into the studio - located on an old boat in East India Docks – with Rory Atwell (formerly of testicicles). He worked on half the album with them and the rest was recorded with Steve Mackey from Pulp at the Fish Factory and RAK. With their limited experience - and by limited we mean zero – in a proper studio, Palma Violets had no idea what an over dub was nor did they care to know. They would often show up to the studio with a bunch of stragglers, enough beer to go around and disco lights which in-turn illuminated 180 directly onto record.
• As already noted, there’s a difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. For The Palma Violets, everything they do comes from a real love of music and a need to communicate feelings on a forceful basic level. They’re not a product of 2012 moodboard culture, they’re a pure elemental force.
Benji Taylor; February 19, 2013 (Rating: ***½)
• 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.
• 180 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 Barât, 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.
Lambeth is a district in Central London, England, located in the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of Charing Cross.
By Catriona Gray | 18 February 13
• "It looks a bit like a squat," explains vocalist Chilli Jesson of Palma Violets' south London headquarters. "It's a house in Lambeth that's been converted into artists' studios. At the bottom there's a basement where we played our first few shows." Studio 180 has played such a big part in the evolution of the Palma Violets that it has lent its name to the band's hugely anticipated debut album, due out at the end of February. Still, fresh off the plane from Tokyo, with a UK tour booked and their single "Best Of Friends" named as NME's track of 2012, it's clear that the band won't be spending too much time in such an insalubrious setting for the foreseeable future. Frontman Chilli Jesson talks about getting advice from Steve Mackey, losing their keyboard player and wonders why so many Palma Violets gigs feature topless women…
GQ: Pulp's Steve Mackey produced 180, didn't he?
• Yes, the stylish Steve Mackey! He was amazing, a real mentor to all of us. We met a few producers but Steve just seemed like he really wanted to do it, which was nice. He taught me a lot especially, because he's a bassist and I'd just started to learn the bass. His best piece of advice was "Don't worry too much about making mistakes because that adds charm and character to a song." There are a lot of mistakes in the record.
What were you listening to when the band first got together?
• I was listening to The Clash and Nick Cave. The Gun Club was a big one for us - they were probably the band that influenced us the most. I love the energy of their records.
We keep reading gig reviews which reference topless women in the audience. Is this a frequent occurrence?
• It seems to be becoming a bit of a regular thing. It's great - if our music makes people feel like they've got to be topless, I've got nothing against that. It seems to be happening more and more frequently.
Who is your best-dressed man?
• Nick Cave is a stylish guy - he's got a great dress sense. And Jarvis Cocker has got good trousers.
Where do you go for clothes?
• I used to work in a clothes shop called Matches, where I got given two suits. I wear those a lot; they're from Acne. They're a good brand, I like them. But apart from that, I just wear my Dad's clothes, to be honest.
What's the best thing you can cook?
• I'm good at doing a Sunday roast. I do roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings - I even make my own apple and cranberry sauce.
Do you spend much time with other Rough Trade artists?
• Rough Trade is incredible, it's like a family. Micachu from Micachu And The Shapes - she's wicked. And Alabama Shakes are good friends of ours. They played their first show in London in our studio and we supported them.
Have there been any particularly unnerving moments since starting the band?
• Probably losing our keyboard player at Reading Festival. We had to go to Leeds early the next day but he had disappeared completely. Luckily, we eventually found him lying under a tree, passed out. But Pete's been punctual ever since.
Awards and nominations:
Year/ Organisation/ Award/ Work/ Result
• BBC: Sound of 2013 N/A Nominated
• NME: 50 Best Tracks of 2012 "Best of Friends" Won
• NME: Best New Band N/A Won
|Palma Violets — 180 |