Music Reviews

Palma Violets 180

(Rough Trade) Rating - 5/10

Having spent over fifteen years being intermittently burned by the British music press anointed Next Big Things – Terris, Gay Dad, The Vines, The Vaccines, the list goes on – my appetite for diving into the latest hyped debut from a British guitar band has diminished somewhat. Consequently, I missed my deadline for Palma Violets’ 180, not through laziness so much as through a distinct lack of motivation.

When I finally got around to listening to the record, I realised that it isn’t quite as terrible as I’d expected. Yes, it sounds a little laboured in places, some songs descend into pastiche (Rattlesnake Highway is a dead ringer for The Clash’s version of I Fought The Law), and nothing here could be described as groundbreaking or revolutionary, but on the positive side, palpable bursts of fun punctuate the record. On repeat listens, the young band’s charm, most evident on highlights Chicken Dipper and Best of Friends, even begins to persuade you to overlook their deficiencies.

Ultimately, while the good outweighs the bad, the downright ordinary outweighs them both. Enthusiasm and a sense of humour will only get you so far, and there are far too many unremarkable moments to allow 180 to truly succeed as a full-length. If they’d had the self-editing skills to scrap four songs, the redundant Three Stars and pedestrian 14 plus two more of their choice, Palma Violets would have had a promising little mini-album on their hands. As it is, they’ve buried a couple of cracking tunes and a few half-decent ones in a bloated mélange of stodgy Brit-rock. Echo & the Bunnymen, the Libertines, and the Jesus and Mary Chain – along with a whole host of other superior (mostly British) guitar bands – are referenced, but never matched.

Palma Violets are clearly not the finished article. They simply haven’t been around long enough to carve out their own identity, and it shows on 180. While the better songs sound rough around the edges, their inferior material here sounds scrappy and juvenile. A debut album doesn’t have to be the blueprint for a band’s entire career, of course, but Palma Violets are going to have to demonstrate something more than a working knowledge of British guitar music post-1977 if they’re to develop into a genuinely interesting band.