Danger in the Club Music Review
Palma Violets had every right to be another band swept under the doormat of NME roadkill if they didn’t play their cards right. But, ever since their summer 2012 hit Best of Friends, a fists-in-the-air raucous salute to friend-zoning, it became clear that they would be much more than that. It’s hard to put your finger on why, but everyone loves Palma Violets. Everyone. There’s just something extremely likeable about them. Maybe, in the nicest way possible, it’s because they don’t take risks.
Their debut album, 180, released in early 2013 is still one of my favourite contemporary albums. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is one of the best because there have been a lot more accomplished and thought-provoking albums in recent times, but few of them have been as feel-good as 180. Sonically, it was nothing that hasn’t been heard before, but, unfairly, omnipresent comparisons to The Clash and The Libertines set unrealistic expectations for the Violets to reach. The end product, however, was heavily indebted to the last-gang-in-town ethos of the punk era, intertwined with simple three-cord hooks resulting in a gnarly garage-punk record that still soundtracks questionable life decisions and Saturday nights across the country spent being chucked out of Wetherspoons for having a tacky fake ID bought online.
Palma Violets‘ follow-up album, Danger in the Club, sees the Rough Trade signings take a less frenetic approach – less reckless, more refined. The out-of-control ramshackle of 180 tracks such as Johnny Bagga’ Donuts and Rattlesnake Highway has generally been disregarded here in favour of a more mature, supervised pub rock style that, to their credit, still remains wholeheartedly moshable. Walking Home is a lust-fuelled antidote to 180‘s homage to their late night ride home on the number 14 Lambeth bus that bassist Chilli Jesson once rode completely covered in sick.
The album’s highlight, for me, is the third track Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better on the Beach. This track is an example of potentially heightened comparisons to the London Calling-era Clash, with an infectious guitar lick underneath the thundering opening lines of “I was standing under palm trees waiting for you/You had a vulnerable heart and a smoking 42”. The Jacket Song invites further inevitable Libertines comparisons through an extremely Radio America-esque ballad about a second-hand jacket that was made in Japan and “taken by the machine“. Whatever that means.
There’s a lot to love about the Palmas – from their commitment to their fans (the vinyl copy of the new album features a number which you can contact them on) to the I-was-there tales that can be told of the guerrilla gigs at their Studio 180 base that helped them become the Next Big Thing, but the Violets themselves tend to shun love. There’s the aforementioned friend-zoning of their breakthrough single Best of Friends that boasted the chorus of “I wanna be your best friend, I don’t want you to be my girl“, but Coming Over to My Place takes it to the next level with the hopefully-hyperbolic “I’d rather die than be in love“. Such charmers.
Gout! Gang! Go could easily be mistaken for a Ramones song, given its name, but what we have here is the tearaway Palma Violets at their rawest, possessing the potential for a commercially successful rock song wrapped in a rolling paper and lick-sealed approvingly by some moshpit-hungry crusties. Surely a to-be live favourite.
We all know, though, that nothing is perfect, and this album is no exception. It starts red hot but starts to cool down towards the end, with tracks such as the silly Peter & the Gun and the borderline boring penultimate No Money Honey starting to drastically drag. It’s not that they’re bad songs, they’re not. It’s just that they never really click or get going. Matador is equally as out-of-place on the album compared to the astonishing pre-album singles in the title-track Danger in the Club and the album closer English Tongue.
Having said that, this is an accomplished result and confident approach to take on the typically ‘difficult’ second album. The only worry is how far Palma Violets can stretch this sound – if they continue to churn out similar-sounding pub rock then they are almost certain to fade away – loyal fans will stay true but fickle fans and buzzkills get bored easily. They don’t sound too worried of the future, though, in Girl, You Couldn’t Do Much Better on the Beach: “we’ll probably burn out and fail, well at least I was a marvelous failure“. As for being swept under the NME-roadkill doormat, there’s no danger of that happening any time soon.