Palma Violets ‘Danger in the Club’ – Review

28 May

When Palma violets appeared on the front cover of NME ‘s annual ‘best new music’ issue, they followed in the lineage of other well-dressed, poorly groomed young men with guitars. Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, The Vaccines, The Drums etc – bands who burst onto the scene with bratty, impactful albums before expanding, inflating and often blowing apart on album number two. Palma violets have followed the course laid down with gusto. It’s typical second album syndrome all over again.

‘Danger in the club’ takes ‘180’s core formula of intense performances, high energy tempos and dashed off lyrics and explodes it. The fast songs are faster, the slow songs are slower, the weird songs are weirder and the sloppy songs are sloppier. For all that is gained in this expansion. arguably even more is lost.

The two polar influences on ‘180’ were Nick Cave and The Clash and their influence is even less disguised in these songs. ‘Girl you couldn’t do much better on the beach’ is a catchy pub rock number where chilli dons his finest Joe Strummer impression, punching out the syllables and spitting venom over organ swirls and rancid guitar. At the other extreme ‘Matador’ nods to early Bad seeds weirdness with its lurching, sinister melody, unsettling atmospherics and shifting tempo.

Other influences become apparent; the chaotic (probably more considered than it sounds) playing of Hollywood recalls early Babyshambles, whilst the lovesick ditty ‘the jacket song’ sounds like ‘Radio America’ by Pete Doherty’s other band, The Libertines. You can hear hints of many other classic British guitar groups from Mott the Hoople to The Fall but unlike any number of contemporary guitar groups (Peace, Swim Deep, Catfish and the Bottlemen etc) Palma violets never sound generic or overly familiar. They’ve done enough to implant their own voice and style on this album and ‘Danger in the club’ shows them off as being a distinctive band, rich on personality as well as attitude.

But also short on songs. Their debut had ‘Best of Friends’ which was justifiably called NME’s best track of 2012. ‘180’ had a few more songs that came close to being as good; ‘Danger in the club’ has none. Worse than the lack of classic songs is the presence of barley passable ones. The first half is strong, but side B focuses on the slower numbers, and they’re one thing I never though Palma Violets would be – boring. When The band slow down enough to make you concentrate on this finer details – singing, lyrics, arrangements or anything like that – you realise there just isn’t much going on. Like an old car that looks fantastic speeding down the highway – until it parks up and you examine the shoddy body work and leaking engine. Palma violets are best when they blitz by 100 mph.

There are also issues with the sound. The sludgy production that complements the energetic songs hinders the slower numbers and the mix downplays Palma violets most interesting musical elements; the keyboard. Still when you look past its flaws, ‘Danger in the club’ is mostly enjoyable and endearingly unimportant. Palma Violets don’t demand that you extract sophistication or meaning from these songs, they just demand that you go crazy when you hear them in a club or at their next gig. Which leads me to my final point; Palma Violets remain the best live guitar group of the moment. In that context these songs come alive. ‘Danger in the Club’ might not be a great record but it does give the band decent ammo for their next tour.

6.5/10

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