Keeping up with the precise mortality state of guitar music is currently an exhausting occupation. First it was morosely proclaimed dead, and then, all of a sudden, with a loud bang, the humble 6-string was apparently with us once more, alive and kicking. The whole affair is as ludicrous and tiresome as a farcical soap opera story line.
Whether or not guitar music has the ability to leap fresh-faced out of a canal after being shot multiple times with a bunch of daffodils is not really the point up for debate here. Regardless, Palma Violets have been picked as the poster boys for Guitar’s Dramatic Return – complete with theatrical synth-drums. They became instantly polarising, before we’d even had chance to really hear what they were made of. 180 is a hotly anticipated album, and not just by the fans that frequent Palma Violets’ notoriously rowdy live shows. It seems highly likely that a few people are waiting slyly in the sidelines too, ready to stick out an overly critical foot and trip it right up.
Blotting out 180’s surroundings to focus solely on the music, it’s clear these boys can write. Sure, it’s a cobbled together pastiche, with nods to Velvet Underground and Jesus and Mary Chain glued into place, but somehow Palma Violets seem to make it work just brilliantly. Derivative 180 might be, but it’s also rammed full with jangly, addictive melodies that burst into life and disappear almost as quickly. ‘Best of Friends’ unmistakably has the hallmarks of a classic; from its yowling chorus to the slightly half-arsed but spot-on guitar solo. The terribly named ‘Chicken Dippers’ showcases an irresistible Spaghetti Western guitar riff, along with some surprisingly vulnerable vocals. Quickly descending into frentic mayhem without warning, Palma Violets are always on the move; it’s no surprise their live show cemented their success. Like oft-namechecked live legends The Libertines and The Clash, the Palmas seem to grasp the power that a memorable melody can hold.
180 is unlikely to prompt mass backtracking and mumbled apologies from the naysayers – neither will it reinvent music as we know it. What we must remember is that Palma Violets never brazenly announced that they would do anything of the sort. There are two firm camps that a good album can entrench itself in – with rare perfect records pitching up in uncharted territory in between. Palma Violets, it is fair enough to say, forgo the space reserved for sheer innovation, but they compensate enough with heart. There’s something believable about their cause, and for the first time in a while, here’s a band that seem to provoke an outrageous reception, positive or negative, every time they take to the stage. People will always chunter on about how derivative 180 is, how middle-of-the-road Palma Violets seem, but this frenzy of debate, ironically, might turn out to be Palma’s primary catalyst. To steal the words of a far more eloquent Oscar Wilde, we all know that there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.