The Lambeth boys have had their first release, 180, out for a couple of weeks now and my word has it taken off. With it, Palma Violets are fast becoming one of the biggest bands in Britain, reaching beyond the usual music aficionados and to that scary thing; the British public.
For a year or so there has been a big buzz surrounding these boys from south London and there’s been one door in Lambeth that behind which has hidden many secrets. The number on that door is 180 and, behind it, Palma Violets were sharpening their strings and tightening their drums as they prepared to take on Britain with their own brand of classic rock ‘n’ roll.
On the face of it, we’ve heard it all before rock ‘n’ roll from the capital with hints of punk and flecks of reggae and soul. Cue the list of bands you can name with this brief with The Clash, The Libertines and the rest at the top of the list. There is one difference, however, with Palma Violets compared to recent artists who have tried the same thing; people are taking notice. These boys were shouting so loud it was hard not to hear them. Palma Violets are doing it for a new generation and are engaging with the kids. Who, in turn, are downing their synths and laptops and remembering what raucous riffs sound and feel like.
180 kicks off with the stand out single ‘Best Friends’, a shuddering, screaming song about rejecting rather than the usual rejection. The record then starts to slow down with a ’60s pop-style move, the ever-present organ making tracks such as ‘Step up for the Cool Cats’ and ‘All the Garden Birds’ really hum and feel retro yet current. ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ has a real affinity with The Clash even down to Chilli’s Joe Strummer screeches and the band’s howling near the end of the track. This doesn’t take anything away from the song which, like the laughably named ‘Chicken Dippers’, is thunderous and rallying with tortured lyrics and scything guitars.
The album continues in this vein with ‘Last of The Summer Wine’ and ‘Tom the Drum’ tracks which showcase the crooning vocals of Sam Fryer and the guile in the rest of the band’s craft, all while still giving us a taste of unhinged rock ‘n’ roll. The penultimate track ‘Three Stars’ is an ambient and melodic track touching on the psychedelic at points and leads you into the epic eight-minute track ’14’ which ends in a crescendo of drums, organs and guitars. With it, we have the end to one of the best albums this year.
180 truly is a success but Palma Violets won’t need me to tell them this as they’re currently over in Austin receiving every networking American’s “Good Job, Buddy” at the SXSW festival. Moreover, when they do come back to Blighty, they will be returning to sold-out venues and demands for a word or two from every magazine with any sense. Palma Violets have managed to merge the voice of a new generation with the style of The Kinks, the power of The Clash and the worrying hedonism of The Libertines. I truly can’t give them a bigger compliment than that.