The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Kamikaze Palm Tree
Mint Chip Daryl Worthington , August 19th, 2022 07:57

Zig-zag rhythms, theatrical post-punk and surreal ballads abound on the second studio album by off-kilter Californians

A sliding riff which prangs and chimes all at once. A dead-pan vocal, not quite sprechstimme, not quite sung: “It’s us / again / in a / predicament”. The clumsiness of that final word, slightly archaic, oddly formal, seemingly with one too many syllables, somehow gels in the off-kilter groove, at one with the ramshackle shuffle.

In some ways ‘Predicament’, the fourth track on Kamikaze Palm Tree’s new album Mint Chip, sounds like it like it could be the theme tune to a lost Hanna-Barbera sitcom. But alongside that cartoonish familiarity are digressions into something unfamiliar. The whole album seems to grow extra components each time you listen to it. As if the band found a way to break the write-record-release sequence and instead sneak into your home to keep adding to the recording.

Kamikaze Palm Tree are San Francisco-based Dylan Hadley (drums and vocals) and Cole Berliner (guitars), joined on Mint Chip by bassist Josh Puklavetz, Laena Myers Ionita on clarinet, and Brad Caulkins on violin. The duo’s previous album, Good Boy, swung from jangly pop into clangorous chug. Live at KALX sounded at times like the Velvet Underground doing spiritual jazz. Mint Chip continues this unpredictable trajectory. The sharp dynamics of Good Boy are gone, as has the live album’s dreamy collage feel. In their place is a richer palette and greater clarity. The band yanking a new bizarreness from sounds that initially seem kitsch or retro.

Opener ‘Flamingo’s elegant top-line tangles through angular guitar and slippery bass. ‘Smoke On The Milk, But My War’, trips from bluegrass licks into grungey strums. Elsewhere are wonky synth pop excursions, mutant folk rock and, on ‘Club Banger’, a creaking, surreal ballad. Throughout, Hadley’s vocals have shades of both Nico and The Raincoats’ Ana Da Sliva. Kamikaze Palm Tree’s music is reminiscent of the diversity of Haha Sound-era Broadcast if you replaced their spectral pop with a taste for country music twang and theatrical post-punk.

Mint Chip is full of misdirection but never feels contrived. It’s most pronounced on ‘The Hit’. The rolling piano and fuzz-led verses are the album’s brightest moment. But in the world Kamikaze Palm Tree build, it feels only natural the mid-section sounds like alien sounds from a sci-fi b-movie.

Their songs are tightly composed, danceable streams of consciousness. Oblique lyrical shifts matched by sudden jumps into zig-zag rhythms. But these are tangents rather than non-sequiturs, riding a meandering yet coherent train of thought. Kamikaze Palm Tree find something joyous in embracing rather than shying away from digressions. As Hadley sings on ‘The Hit’, “There is no wrong door.”