Palma Violets – 180
It happens every year – maybe every two or three weeks, even. A new band composed of pasty-faced, waifish Brits serves up a rehash of the same three chords (granted, those same three chords are great chords) and voila, the new voice of a generation has delivered “the soundtrack of your life,” to quote the hacks at the NME. Next thing you know there’s a whirlwind UK tour and a handful of major festival appearances, followed by a big crowd at SXSW. Huge rails of coke are snorted, backstage areas are destroyed, groupies are trounced – and in the best-case scenario, the bad boy of the band’s liaison with a supermodel provides grist for tabloid coverage. All of this hype yields a brief underground popularity spike in the U.S., and then the band all but disappears.
Enter the Palma Violets, the newest UK band that is going to “save” rock ’n’ roll. Their debut, 180, is pleasant enough. They have cool hair and they do play guitars, which is a definite plus these days.
180 has a strong start with “Best of Friends,” a cool enough song with a memorable, sing-along chorus that easily locks in your brain and is therefore ideal background music for computer and smart phone ads. “Best of Friends” utilizes the aforementioned three chords to maximum potential: It’s jangly, catchy, and has the requisite punkish sass for a summer single. From there, 180 is a downhill ride.
What we have here is a simulacrum of other bands that ripped off other bands that incapably ripped off Loaded-era Velvet Underground. The Palma Violets are like a punky, post-millennial Galaxie 500 standing in a hall of mirrors. Producer Steve Mackey (of Pulp fame) does an admirable job of detuning the band’s guitars just so to generate a prefab garage sound that actually works well for this kind of stuff. The Palma Violets’ real problem is that they just have one song – which is perfectly executed at the beginning of the album. So why listen to the other tracks, all of which offer diminishing returns?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on these lads. I still can’t get “Best of Friends” out of my head, and that’s really not so bad. And the Palma Violets do have cool hair. And the Palma Violets do play guitars. And so it goes.