Scrappy English Band Palma Violets’ Album is Better than Shouty Fun

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Palma Violets‘ debut album 180 was fun particularly because they sounded exactly like what you would expect a young scrappy English band would sound like: rambunctious, shouty, and raw. Danger In The Club has all of these qualities that endeared them to us but a few years later and we can expect much more.

A couple of cuts showcase the band’s bigger worldview. Thanks to hype, they were no longer Englishmen confined to playing in England. However, not everything was rosy as they toured the States and the band does not shy away from questioning it. In ‘Hollywood (I Got It)’, cymbal crashing and jocose falsetto—as though drawing the curtains aside at a state fair—precede a jangly, lyrically simple song about having Hollywood in their bones. According to the band, ridiculousness and grandiosity go together in America. They trade merry blows “Fresh fish / (I got it!) / Fresh dish / (I got it!)” and claim “I can do anything at all!” Sped-up and cross-spliced police radio chatter invite staccatoic chants of “the secrets of America” in the eponymous song. Tom-toms rumble, the vocalists search for breadth, and the keys (Pete Mayhew) all leer in suspicion; it turns out that Fryer and Jenson have nothing to divulge but their cluelessness.

In 2014, Palma Violets’ most well-known song ‘Best of Friends’ was nominated for an Ivor Novello, a British award acknowledging song and lyric writing. Interpret the beers-in-the-air singalong chorus however you like—for me the gusto of that song was always tinged by sadness, “I wanna be your best friend / I don’t want you to be my girl.” Four young twenty-somethings encapsulated the feeling of meeting someone who was so over your reach that you could only feel unworthy.

On this album, the band have been more direct with their tear-jerking ballads. One such slow jam is ‘The Jacket Song’, during which Sam Fryer (guitars, vocals) apologizes for not reciprocating love. Regret is a simple theme and Fryer’s (and bassist Jenson’s) delivery is charming in an off-the-cuff manner: “Second hand / made in Japan / that’s my love.” He’s direct with his excuses too: “We had a pact but I was fucked / that’s just how it goes.” Nonetheless, it’s a smart song in the way the crusher comes halfway through the song: “Did you ever dream of me / before you were taken by the machine?” Meanwhile, the lilting forays of the electric slide guitar provide that subtle emotional pull, displaying their expanded palette (the band credits producer John Leckie for this).

Lest I be misunderstood, this album is not a story about a band who’s all grown up, introspective, moody, and forgotten how to have fun. ‘Gout! Gang! Go!’ has a jumpy bassline and guitar solo that would be anthemic if played live. ‘Danger In The Club’ is all bright days and sunshine, with Mayhew’s keys drenched in a bit of reverb but sparkly in its turns. The breakdown of the song is a ruckus, with a bluesy harmonica wail and a hypnotising chant of “he’s bad to the bone.” Fryer may know when to take a break and “walk home” (as on the song ‘Walking Home’) but those moments are far and few between. Palma Violets are still that local English boisterous band out to make some noise and with this album, I’m sure they will.

Palma Violet’s Danger in the Club can be purchased on Rough Trade’s Home Page on May 5. They’re playing May 16 at Petit Campus at 9 p.m. $15

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