Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
If their 2013 debut album, 180, saw Palma Violets touted as the “saviours of indie” or the new Libertines, the John Leckie-produced follow-up finds them pitching up closer to the post-punk era, especially the Clash circa London Calling. Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer’s sweat’n’spittle-drenched harmonies can’t help but recall Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, and there are loud, swaggering songs about America here, too. Elsewhere, though, they reference everyone from Graham Parker to the Damned, and hurl in everything from Doorsy organs to twangy-guitared surf-rock, delivering each song with epic, music-hall rowdiness.
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 180, Palma Violets overflowed with youthful enthusiasm that united even the most freewheeling and shambling moments. After two years on the road and scrapped recording sessions, some maturing was inevitable, but Palma Violets spend most of Danger in the Club trying to find more sophisticated ways of expressing their raffishness with the help of producer John Leckie, who helps them remain true to their spirit while pushing their boundaries. Doo wop-tinged backing vocals give "Walking Home" an extra bounce to its inebriated strut (yet this is one of Danger in the Club's most focused songs); "No Money Honey" shows that they can do haunting almost as well as rowdy; and "The Jacket Song" is the kind of ramshackle acoustic waltz that added a weary romance to the Libertines' music.
Palma Violets came straight out of London in 2013 with a rollicking live show, a solid debut (180) and an endearing, Clash-y spirit. They can sound a little spoiled on their second album, griping about America with a snickering antipathy that hardly feels earned. Then again, these guys' re-enactment of the soccer-yob side of Seventies punk and pub rock is plenty idealistic — from the drunk-gang choruses to the Sixties garage-R&B mimicry to the splash-and-burn surf moves.
This second album from the Lambeth band is an exploration of tuneful and energetic guitar work as well as showcasing a spacier, genuinely playful side to the group. Future indie disco classic Hollywood I Got is a highly danceable slab of indie-rock with a sentiment akin to Art Brut’s wonderful Moving To LA. It’s immediately followed by On The Beach, which hints at the summery two-minute melodicism of The Undertones and Tours alike, before a peculiarly abrupt fadeout.
A couple of years ago south London’s Palma Violets were being proclaimed as the latest indie guitar saviours and the true garage-punk heirs to The Clash and The Libertines. Their album 180 may not have fully captured the band’s raw live energy engagingly co-fronted by guitarist Sam Fryer and bassist Chilli Jesson, but it still possessed enough rollicking spirit to signal a promising debut. Follow-up Danger In The Club sounds slightly more self-assured but does not show any great development.
Palma Violets’ debut album ‘180’ was written in a Lambeth haze. Made very much in the heat of the moment, fresh from signing a record deal, chaos and hedonism and nonsensical odes to ‘Chicken Dippers’ were the main order. Recorded in a studio spilling out with the band’s friends on backing vocals, it captured the energy of Palmas’ raucous live show, and the potent musical chemistry between Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer.
The narratives for sophomore albums frequently spend serious time on words like “growth” and “maturity.” But after an album as gleefully brash and juvenile as 180, expecting maturation from Palma Violets would be a tall order. True to their youthful, drunken exuberance, the London lads deliver Danger in the Club, trying to add another wild night to their weekend rather than get ready for the work week. Seeing the Violets try to scrub up in the name of growth would’ve been a risky decision, but instead, Danger suffers the same ills and rides the same highs as 180.
When London racket-makers Palma Violets emerged back in 2012, the British music press had been looking for the new Libertines since 2004. Palma Violets seemed to fit the bill—they had the anarchic, slapdash energy, the unapologetic Englishness, the two vocalists (Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson) riffing off each other, the lyrics mined from the tedium of being an English twenty-something desperately looking for kicks—and the press latched onto them like a leech, declaring it the dawn of a new era of British guitar music and Palma Violets the saviors of rock 'n' roll. A couple of years on, the dust has settled somewhat, and as the Violets emerge from the hype storm we can see more clearly whether they were worth any of it.
Imagine sitting in the back of a car being driven by a drunken cab driver: lengthy periods speeding down stretches of road, causing panic to sit in the pit of your stomach; then, a jamming of the brakes as the car has to navigate and circle around a corner. You might at times feel a sense of exhilaration; most of the time, though, the head and the heart will be thinking, “Get me out of here!” On first listen, the British would-be indie heroes Palma Violets’ new release, Danger in the Club feels just like that unwelcome car ride. Second time around, there are perhaps more moments of release than you first appreciated.
Palma Violets stood out from the rest of the Libertines and early Arctic Monkeys mimics due to their ramshackle swagger and infectious album opener "Best of Friends. " Their energy and way around a hook promised big things. Two years later, the London-based group feel like a band running on empty both physically and emotionally.
What is it with trad British indie-rock bands actively selling themselves short at the moment? Vaccines frontman Justin Young has said of their forthcoming third album, "We wanted to make something that sounds amazing next year and then terrible in 10 years. " And here's Palma Violets' co-frontman Sam Fryer: "There's no producer in the world who could make us sound professional. " At least Catfish & the Bottlemen reach for the sky (or Glastonbury's main stage) as they're scraping the barrel.
Lots of UK bands do Libertinesesque shambolic Britpop, but Palma Violets are both rawer and more skilled at writing singalong hooks than many of their contemporaries. The good news for their fans is that that formula is still intact, and recording with legendary producer John Leckie didn't cause them to file away all their charmingly rough edges. They're not reinventing themselves, but they're also not losing sight of what people love about them.