Every year during the chilling post-X-Factor months, indie critics everywhere scramble to proclaim a new saviour of music. This year, Lambeth four-piece Palma Violets have had the dubious honour bestowed on them. The release of their debut album 180 is no small achievement for a band barely two years in the making, especially when it has been so highly anticipated.
Yet, 180 is a perfectly-crafted album in its own right, spinning a yarn of various ’60s influences. The sparkling, nostalgic melodies and buoyant choruses are not limited to the first two singles, ‘Best of Friends’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’. ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ and ‘We Found Love’ are standout tracks, the latter being a contender for the band’s next single. The comparison with The Vaccines is justified, given the two groups’ shared penchant not so much for a wall of sound as for a mire of reverb. Hints of Phil Spector-esque production, Farfisa keyboards and half-jangly, half-grungy guitars are all drawn together with the album’s lo-fi sound.
On a closer listen, the album feels disjointed. Tracks like the unfortunately titled ‘Chicken Dippers’, an otherwise atmospheric and harmonious song, are marred by whooping that would embarrass The Libertines at their rowdiest. No doubt this is a result of trying to capture the energy of Palma Violets live, evidenced at a recent BBC session at Maida Vale. Sadly, it seems to have not paid off on the record. It’s not just whoops and woos that present a problem. Lyrically the album is unchallenging, but the unfailing irony of some of the lyrics makes this an annoyance. Self-referential lines, like ‘I’ve got a brand new song / It’s gonna be a number one’ featured on ‘14’, quickly wear thin.
Shortcomings aside, the album’s rough feel is still uplifting and catchy. Palma Violets’ 180 might still be far from the saving grace of indie, but who needs heroes anyway?