The Lambeth band refuse to grow up on rollicking second album that straddles America and London
Back at the beginning of last year, when Palma Violets let slip that they’d scrapped two weeks’ worth of recording for their second record, bassist Chilli Jesson cited a peculiar logic for the decision. “We made too big a leap,” he told NME. “I felt like we’d lost the element of youth.” It seemed a curious thing to say, mainly because making big leaps are what second albums are supposed to be about: they’re a prime opportunity to show everyone how much you’ve ‘grown’, how sharply you’ve ‘matured’, how far you’ve ‘evolved’. On ‘Danger In The Club’, Palma Violets reject that idea entirely: they might have hired a big-name producer (John Leckie, of ‘The Bends’ and ‘The Stone Roses’ fame) and recorded at Rockfield, the Monmouth studio where Queen did ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in 1975, but this album is – quite deliberately – a complete omnishambles, perilously held together by gaffer tape and good intentions. If preserving that all-important “element of youth” was their primary aim, then you couldn’t call it anything other than an unqualified success.
It takes all of 25 seconds to establish that not only have the childish things not been put away, they’re scattered all over the floor like Lego, just waiting to be trod on and tripped over. ‘Sweet Violets’ is a brief, bleary-eyed rendition of the 1951 hit by Tennessee singer and TV personality Dinah Shore, a bawdy knees-up delivered from a horizontal repose that raises the curtain on the 40 cacophonous minutes to follow. The second track, ‘Hollywood (I Got It)’, hardly seems any more substantial than the first, and contains only four lyrics, one of which is guitarist Sam Fryer’s inscrutable bleat of “Fresh fish! I got it!”. Yet what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in demented charm and pulsating energy: when it eventually clatters to a halt – which it does with all the grace of a seven-car pile-up – you find yourself wanting to cheer the carnage they’ve caused along the way.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Danger In The Club’ works best when Palma Violets are drunk on their own enthusiasm, hurtling through the likes of ‘Gout! Gang! Go!’ and ‘Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better On The Beach’ like a cartoonish Clash, with Jesson and Fryer warbling and whinnying over each other’s vocals. Like piss artists who insist they’re still OK to drive, they occasionally take it too far – both ‘Matador’ and ‘Peter And The Gun’ drag on a bit, the former sounding like a hemorrhaged Libertines, the latter full of abrupt tempo changes that they don’t quite have the nuance to pull off. Still, with any band whose music teeters on the brink of collapse, there are always going to be instances where the wheels do come spinning off. Chaos isn’t chaotic when everything goes according to plan.
For the most part, however, Palma Violets hold it together admirably, through rollicking journeys into the weird heart of America (‘Secrets Of America’), dishevelled, Doherty-esque acoustic waltzes (‘The Jacket Song’) and the non-appearance of their beloved N14 bus, leaving them to traverse a lovelorn pub-rock gauntlet of indignity (‘Walking Home’). They could have made a dour, depressing album about how exhausting life on the road can be, or how being in a band stretches friendships to breaking point – both of which, by their own account, they have firsthand experience of. Instead, they’ve made one that sounds like it was recorded without a care in the world. You’re only young once, and Palma Violets are in no hurry to grow up.
Director: John Leckie
Record label: Rough Trade
Release date: 04 May, 2015