Palma Violets, Boston Arms, London
Friday 11 January 2013
Crowd surfing continues with the band off-stage, a topless girl balances on a mate's shoulders and the bouncers look panicked. This year’s hotly tipped saviours of guitar rock take all this in their stride, at least until a chaotic finale, suggesting either they learn fast or this is typical of their gigs.
Sweaty, fevered abandon is certainly promised by a four-piece that reach back to dingy corners of garage rock that The Vaccines have been too well-mannered to explore. Despite only forming in 2011 and having released one limited single, Palma Violets have been on the NME’s cover twice, begging the question, are they the next Suede or another soon to be forgotten Terris?
It is a lot of weight on three pairs of scrawny shoulders – drummer Will Doyle looks a useful rugby player – though this south London crew look ready to take on the mantle of romantic wastrels last held by The Libertines. Indeed, the band signed to Rough Trade, who previously spotted both The Strokes and Pete Doherty’s erstwhile troupe.
The four-piece have apparently been honing their craft at secret gigs in the Lambeth studio that has given next month’s album its title, 180. If so, it has been time well spent, for while the Palma Violets’ playing is often sketchy, they still give off a potent electric charge.
At its heart is the fraternal love-in between guitarist Sam Fryer and bass player Chilli Jesson, eyeing each other in the manner of Doherty and Carl Barat when they took on the world. The gangly Fryer moves between Joe Strummer-style yowl and cracked rockabilly croon, while his wired bandmate occasionally throws in his more parched snarl.
Also key is Pete Mayhew’s sepulchral, Electric Prunes organ, especially woozy on the frazzled ‘Johnny Bagga’ Donuts’. Buoyed by Jesson’s primal roar, previous single ‘Best Of Friends’ comes with such raw power that its chorus could easily become this year’s festival anthem, while ‘Tom The Drum’ shows them ably teasing sixties psych-rock tropes as they pause the number before coming back harder and faster.
That they have barely mustered enough material for an album shows in more haphazard moments, notably the perfunctory ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ – think Spector without the archness - cunningly dashed off early on. Drenched in reverb, subtlety is ignored in favour of a palpable taste for wanton hedonism. As the set degenerates under waves of stage invasions, you sense the hunger for such escapist pleasures.
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