“180” – Palma Violets
Poor Palma Violets. They didn’t do anything. All they’ve done is exist and make music like anyone else would but thanks to a certain publisher’s mild obsession everyone has gone to listen to them expecting the best thing since that last best thing, whatever the hell that was. Do not get me wrong, they are a good band who have released a fine album but that’s all they’ve released. It’s fine, guys.
The first thing to take note of when listening through “180” for the first time is the choice of opening track. You may spend your time listening through it thinking the same thing as me: “this is still a great song. Can’t wait to see what else they’ve got to offer”. Unfortunately, you may be similarly disappointed as this song pretty much represents the most exciting point of the album as well as introducing virtually every trick in their writing and performance book. If one vague listen through this album is all you have to go by for this band, you won’t remember a thing you’ve heard. You’re going to have heard a lot of the same, none of which is hugely memorable. I could even write out the general formula for virtually every song on the album but that would ruin absolutely any fun to be had here (and also be horrifically tedious).
This is not to say that once you’ve heard one Palma Violets song you’ve heard them all; there are some interesting deviations from the loose, swampy mid-tempo numbers that make up most of the album. “Johnny Bagga’ Donuts” stands as a fun, swinging, stop-starty beach-resort tune that sounds like its structure could have been written about fifty years prior. They even throw the odd rhythmic curveball here and there throughout the record, suddenly shifting between half- full- and double-time and throwing around the tempo of songs however they fancy.
The loose, swampy factor remains a constant however. The main differences in sound you’re going to hear resides in the organ parts which one might argue give Palma Violets their sound. It sounds at once both ancient and refreshing. On “Tom the Drum” it sounds like an early song The Band may have recorded; gooey, deep and warm. A lot of the rest of the time, it’s very much what you’d expect to hear walking down a sunny pier in the 1940s.
Other than the lyrics there is very little else to talk about concerning this album. Even then, lyrics are a sparse resource on “180”. The intro of “Last of the Summer Wine“‘ ends at about 1:44 and instrumental sections are rife elsewhere too. This isn’t a bad thing; the lyrics are more often than not clichés that have been repeated to the point of losing any meaning (they even go as far to sing “all you need is love” at one point). It’s just that the instrumental passages aren’t all that interesting either. At least they’re making the music they want to make, which is ultimately what needs to be said here.
It may sound like I don’t like this album which isn’t true. Like I said before, it’s fine. There are genuinely good songs here and there but I do hope any hyped-up publishers or even fans don’t get too riled up about this one because somehow it’ll be Palma Violets themselves who are to blame regardless of the fact that they’re simply releasing some decent music they’ve written and enjoy. I’m sure the cry of “fucking brilliant!” on “Tom the Drum” confirms that. Just listen to this record with no context and you might have a lovely time.