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Palma Violets
180 Emily Mackay , February 27th, 2013 09:17

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There's one microcosmic detail in Palma Violet's debut album that exemplifies the root of a lot of the fuss that's been made over them, for good or bad. It's the moment when established live favourite 'Tom The Drum' tumbles abruptly to a halt, a rattle of drumsticks turns into the band giving themselves a tiny round of applause, and you can clearly make out bassist/co-frontman Chilli Jesson's voice drawl "fucking brrrrrilliant..." before the song lurches back into joyous life.

The raw, gawky excitement Palma Violets get from just playing pops from person to person at their gigs like sexy static electricity. Without being particularly showy (apart from their adorably awful efforts to get the crowd to join with raising their 'spirit fingers' at every show) they generate thrill, demand to be watched as they stumble about into each other, sweaty and shouting and unselfconscious.

It's this excitement (which it should be noted, exists not only in magazines and lists but also in the minds and hearts of real, happy young people; I seen 'em with my own eyes) which has also drawn a fair amount of 'saviours of indie rock? Not likely on this evidence' sneers their way. I mean, imagine magazines whose role it's always been to get hysterical about new bands getting bug-eyedly worked up about a good band that a lot of young people are into! How stupid.

I find it weird, because Palma Violets sonically tick the sort of references that usually have snobbier critics dropping their guard; The Gun Club, early Bunnymen, the Bad Seeds (Jesson's late father was once the Bad Seeds' manager, and they're a favourite of the whole group). Yet as soon as they're handed the an NME front cover, I have people telling me they sound like Jamie T, The Libertines, The Clash and Coldplay. Er, what?

I also find it odd that the same accusations of stupidity and derivativeness kneejerked their way are rarely hurled at the equally hyped Savages, who despite being if anything more pastichey in sound, have the advantages of gender and humourlessness on their side. Derivative guitar music played by happy young men? Boo! Thickos, retrogressive, landfill etc. Same played by angry-faced young women? Brilliant. You people are so transparent, honestly.

Anyway, if you take the time to look past all that navel-gazing music journo shite, the point is, it's the audible potential energy that makes this, as with so many debuts of its kind (Remember, for starters, The Horrors' debut album?). It doesn't need work and time and fine tuning; it needs to be a lovable, dizzy, bedheaded romp. And it is. Pete Mayhew's unfussy organ adds a richness to their exuberant racket that would make 'Rattesnake Highway' gothy if it could be bothered to stand still for two seconds, clattering happily towards its screamed chorus. 'Chicken Dippers' (I mean, you know a band know the importance of not taking themselves too seriously when they call a song 'Chicken Dippers' rather than say 'I Read A Book About The War Once, It Was Well Dark', don't you? Not to mention 'Johnny Bagga' Donuts') has a Bad Seeds-ish crooned death-rattle verse with richly twanging guitar and a chorus like an ambush. 'Last Of The Summer Wine''s rich jangle and immensely singable chorus are irresistible, the silliness of Sam Fryer's forced-too-deep croon only adding to the charm. Best of all, 'Best Of Friends', months on from first ear-kiss, still sounds like the sweetest snapshot of young heartbreak (or, more to the point and more brilliantly, reluctantly breaking hearts), howling and thrashing it out.

It's not a perfect record, but then you wouldn't want it to be – the charm is the energy and room to grow here. They're not going to save anything, no, apart from you from the stick up your own arse if you let them. And they are, as they know, fucking brrrrrilliant.

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Stuart Gadd
Feb 27, 2013 3:27pm

I saw them at Great Escape last year, thought they were great Review's much more on the money re: their influence's - most of the reviews have been so solipsistic, just comments on the hype, not the record. What about wishing people well eh?

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Feb 27, 2013 5:38pm

I don’t particularly like the album, but still, this is probably the best article that’ll be written on it.

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Feb 27, 2013 7:30pm

"I also find it odd that the same accusations of stupidity and derivativeness kneejerked their way are rarely hurled at the equally hyped Savages, who despite being if anything more pastichey in sound, have the advantages of gender and humourlessness on their side."

This, I can get behind.

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Feb 28, 2013 9:09am

Had a dream I wrote a really scathing comment about this review last night.

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Feb 28, 2013 3:37pm

The anti-backlash! I actually agree with what you've said RE the Savages comparison. Unfortunately, my experience of Palma Violets was on that joint tour they did and they were really upstaged. Perhaps I should give them another go.

This band aren't helped either by the patronage of the NME, I heard the new editor on 6 Music a few weeks ago describe them as the best British band since the Libertines, which to my mind I couldn't work out whether it was a compliment or not.

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hey wey
Mar 1, 2013 7:08pm

on forums/comment sections a lot of the anger seems to stem from them being another upper middle class/private educated band people percieve to have waltzed into a music biz career,combine that with them being a bit average makes for ugly internet posting.its ugly and never very nice or intelligent but hopefully it may lead to some sort of lasting debate on the class bias prevalent within london guitar culture today.i doubt it though.

heard the album a few times,its ok i guess,im probably to old to fully get it though.

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Ryan M
Mar 2, 2013 1:46am

It's a decent album. It's not mind-blowing, but who thought it was going to be? The knives from the press were being sharpened as soon as NME picked up on them. Interesting that a few of the "indie" bands that have picked up acclaim of late have burst onto the scene without a lot of the hype that surrounded bands like PV - wonder if the acclaim would have been there had they been hyped for months on end?

I fear a similar fate for Peace. The Delicious EP didn't do them justice. It seemed over-produced somewhat. However ,live, they sound great. However, they're another "NME Hipster Hype" band that people are waiting to use as a stick to poke NME.

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David Allison
Mar 6, 2013 10:20am

I knew I'd get a refreshing angle on this album from you chaps, and this doesn't disappoint. And I'd agree, save for one thing: the album itself. Bunnymen? Bad Seeds? They sounds like The Inspiral Carpets. And yes, that is the insult I meant it as.

There isn't an original bone in their body, and yes, that sometimes doesn't matter when you have a great songwriter in your midst, but...they don't, not on this evidence anyway.

Have we sunk so low in our expectations of what a new band can achieve that we're willing to cheer nothing more than a bit of enthusiasm. Jesus, the teenage boys who practise in next door's garage have that, and they aren't going anywhere. Neither are Parma Violets, I'm afraid.

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Jul 31, 2015 4:10am

I like the album love it

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