There’s a real sense of excitement and expectation surrounding the debut from Palma Violets. Having bagged NME’s Single Of The Year 2012 plaudit for ‘Best Of Friends’ the whispers of “this decade’s Strokes” have begun to gather. NME had an early listen and here’s what we found…
‘Best Of Friends’
You know this already, of course, but shoving this swirling, howling psych-garage stormer – The Libertines and Black Lips being sucked deep into Tame Impala’s sonic whirlpool – right upfront is a bold statement of intent for ‘180’, throwing away what the doubters might have thought to be their biggest hit from the off. It sets a confrontational and carefree tone to the album, an aural boast that they shit this sort of retrofuturist gold.
And hammering home the point, their second single is up next, full of fuzzy Jim Morrison croons, Velvets drone rock, tinny tambourines and steamroller drumming driving the whole thing into a euphoric nu-psych freak-out to the line “you got me dancing in the sun”, resembling a flamethrower rampage through Woodstock ’69. And who couldn’t love the beat poet bit where you can practically hear them clicking their fingers and smell the Gauloises smoke when they hiss “cool cats”?
Opening with a crackling, antique synth refrain, ‘All The Garden Birds’ soon barrels into a perky pop skip-along that siphons Orange Juice through The Kinks for a verse or two before arriving at a coda mingling Libertines urchin winks with doomy Chapel Club import. If you thought Palma Violets were shackled to rigid structures and forms, here’s shifting sands in your eye.
Coming on like a seriously decayed Ramones having lost none of their vitality for being rotted to the bones, this ridiculously rough rock’n’roll rollock – sounding as though it was recorded on a Geiger counter in the middle of Chernobyl – captures the subterranean thrill of the earliest basement punk rock. The energy and melody of the MC5 and The Stooges crackle and burn through these grit-clogged grooves and this tale of a runaway lover bites like a rattlesnake.
The start of what will undoubtedly come to be known as Palma Violets’ “Junk Food Period”, ‘Chicken Dippers’ is essentially a fuzzed-up spaghetti western theme rattling along on crooked wagon-wheel beats and circled by whooping redskins. With a bawled chorus of “you make me feel like I’m the only one”, it’s a song of devotion that sounds like The Strokes becoming seriously devoted to Ennio Morricone.
A song about the beauty inherent in saggy old tights that was recorded while sliding down a hill in a bathtu… no, actually, ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ belies its wrinkly-friendly title by building from a serene Spiritualized phase sweep intro into a jubilant psychedelic jig while Sam Fryer’s sonorous vocals ironically intone “we’re growing up”. It would seem Palma Violets equate hitting uni age with extreme antiquity, mind, since the song ends with a funereal church organ and some crowing cock impressions as if they’ve totally lost their marbles to senile dementia.
Channeling Eddie Cochrane, Jim Morrison and early Costello, ‘Tom The Drum’ rolls along on a rat-a-tat-tat drumbeat, speaking fondly of this chap Tom who “always sings along” and “knows more than you do”. All very friendly and jaunty, until the angry pills kick in and PV start battering seven shades out of their instruments as if Tom’s suddenly admitted to carnal relations with all of their mothers.
Further indication that PV’s lithe figures may be under threat from intense carb attack in future years, ‘Johnny Bagga’ Donuts’ is the album’s roar-along highpoint, an even catchier rewrite of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ that leaps and lollops along on a beat that wouldn’t sound too out of place on My Bloody Valentine’s new album, then turns into ‘Teenage Kicks’ for the last 60 seconds. “I’m banging my head on the ceiling!” howls Sam, and so will you.
‘We Found Love’
The Violets go baggy! With drummer set to ‘funky’ and organ set to ‘Charlatans’, PV embrace the 60s revival sounds of, um, 1990 for a simple love song – “gonna find myself a ladyfriend and stick by her until the end” – that descends into a glitterball-swathed last dance at the Gritrock Café.
And after the last dance, the sunrise over the night before. Like a blanket beneath the dark desert sky, Fryer’s barbed guitar warms this dusky, Elvis-style gospel elegy that starts by stargazing in mournful memory of a lost friend – “they’re shining oh so bright from heaven above/Gee we’re gonna miss you/Everybody sends their love” – and then finds redemption in an upbeat section of euphoric Pixies rock-out.
The rousing finale that’s as canyon rock as you can sound while recording your debut album on shoeboxes down a very deep well, ’14’ finds PV yowling “oh 14, oh 14, take me home” which Operation Yewtree require us to point out, presumably refers to their night bus. Hang around for a few minutes at the end, though, and there’s an extra treat in the form of a languorous racket of a secret track boasting “I’ve got a brand new song, it’s gonna be a Number One/And I’d love to show the world my new song”. Um, so that’s why you’ve hidden it uncredited at the end of your album then? Okaaaaay.