It would seem that most modern day music journalists live somewhat in a state of fear. Even for the bands you love, it is now just heinously unwise to predict great things for anyone, especially the sort of jumped up, hyped up and still drinking 7-Up type bands that are on the cover of NME before they’ve even grown pubes. If you propose that a band will become legendary, ten months later when they have failed to impress anyone outside of your most intimate Pitchfork reading circle, you begin to feel like you may well be a twat. Not only that, but you imagine that everyone else considers the same; for them a confirmation that you, and the rest of the critics living like barnacles on the hype machine, have been sucked in by clamours that were never truly justified.
Read the reviews of New Band of the Day or Radar Band of the Week, and what you find is that the best praise written about a band is now not what they are like, but rather about how much hype they are likely to receive. The emphasis is who is the next big thing - written always in terms of an uncontrollable beast of radio plugging, electronics adverts and Mercury ‘nods’ - with the emphasis on the next, rather than the big, and devoid of genuine interest in longevity or impact. With bands of the minute, day, week etc, the reader seems to be told who they ought to be listening to, but not because of true love, but so as not to be left behind as the rolling grind of mild enthusiasm churns onwards. We might be told that there might be a ‘revival of guitar music’ or someone might be ‘bringing back pop music’ but even these lacklustre non-statements don’t really ask the question that I really want to know: will we still be listening to this album in ten years time?
Most of the time, it is simply too scary to say. Yet, here I am clambering out onto the worryingly fragile limb, to suggest that a young, cool and hyped band (i.e. the exact type that critics cautiously mention the bandwagon of without wanting to throw themselves under its wheels) are destined to be great. Palma Violets’ debut ‘180’ is one to listen to again and again; this feels like the brash first album that will later be referred to as the starting point of a legendary career.
Each lyric is spluttered in a Morrissey style by Sam Fryer, but with the punk backing inherited from the likes of The Clash and Iggy Pop. Tracks such as the hit ‘Best Of Friends’ are perfectly indicative of that ramshackle camaraderie that permeates the album; the modern Vaccines style of track ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats’; the simplicity of the injured sounding vocals on ‘All The Garden Birds’ giving it a sort of ‘listen to in your bedroom feeling miserable’ vibe; the raw catchiness of ‘Chicken Dippers’; the Iggy Pop-style vocal bursts on ‘Tom the Drum’; it all produces an incredible raw sounding album packed full of hits.
Some have suggested this rawness signifies a lack of maturity, but despite an obvious bias, it feels like criticism that is only valid when comparing it to the slick, plastic and vapid stuff that so many debut albums consist of in their bid not to offend. Yes, it sounds young and raucous, but that is its exact charm. Those who have seen them live will fully understand the flailing limbs, the topless fans, the screaming vocals, and the energy that seems to exist without borders, and realise the ridiculousness of criticising this album for not being neat enough.
So, going against the normal fear, largely of you dear reader, I am going to cast aside caution and caveats and predict we will indeed still be listening to this album in ten years time.