Monday, January 28th, 2013
Step Up For The Cool Cats
Palma Violets, Decades, and Always at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangFor those not in the business of keeping up with the buzz bands of the moment, Palma Violets may not yet have appeared on your radar. Though the release of their debut album 180 is still a month out, they’ve already been heralded as the vanguard of the return of guitar rock – I didn’t realize it had ever gone away – and various permutations of This Year’s Model. A title which, while a tremendously helpful leg up as far as getting people interested goes, is also a decidedly two-edged thing as by its very definition, it means that next year it’ll be someone else. Perhaps this is was why they opted to stage a North American tour before their record was out or the buzz had necessarily carried over the Atlantic except to the most devout Anglophiles; they built their name in the UK based on their live show, so why not do the same over here? And so, motivated by curiosity and an urge to get the first show of 2013 in the books, even in the tail end of a frigid cold snap, it was to the Horseshoe I went last Thursday night.
Opening up were some familiar faces in Always – very familiar, as they’d also supported the last few shows I caught at the end of 2012; such ubiquity from an act that had done its best to keep as low a profile online as possible. Each time out had been a little different, however – the full five-piece lineup that opened for The Joy Formidable was back following the stripped-down trio configuration that supported Joel Plaskett, and superficially frontwoman Molly Rankin was now very blonde. The tunes, as always, were indie-pop gems and with the full band back in place, it was a chance to again appreciate how well-arranged and fully-formed the songs were and their selection of The Primitives’ 1988 UK hit “Crash” as a cover was perfectly suited. Perhaps best of all, the online demos that went AWOL shortly after my first writeup on the band have now been replaced with properly-recorded versions that are meant for public ears to hear, so you don’t have to take my word for anything anymore – just go listen.
I’d spent the weeks leading up to the show assuming that the middle band on the will was this Decades – a metal band from Albany, New York – and not this Decades from right here in Toronto. Bands, let this be a warning for you and your generic names. Even when the five-piece took the stage and clearly weren’t metal-punk bros, their wildly-mixed aesthetic – flowery shirts, fedoras, medallions, hoodies, eyeliner – didn’t offer much guidance as to what to expect. When they started playing, however, it all came together as a well-studied blend of goth and New Wave that struck a good balance between concise and atmospheric and was over and done in under 30 minutes. They’d have benefitted from a cleaner mix – particular on the vocals and guitar – and a decision to either commit to or dispense with a look, but were enjoyable well beyond simply not being what I feared/expected.
The problem, as Palma Violets are likely to find as their coming-out party progresses through 2013, is the question that will be asked will not simply be “are they good?” but “do they live up to the hype?”. And based on the three singles they’ve released to date and this show, the answer from this quarter to the former will be “not bad,” but to the latter, “no”. Frontmen Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson have a great energy and chemistry onstage and do a good job of engaging a favourably disposed audience, but they don’t have the same facility for melody or anthemicism as the band they’re most frequently compared to, The Libertines. Their approach is punkier and more willing to descend into noisier, thuggish territory which goes to the band’s good live reputation but ultimately and most importantly, the songs aren’t very memorable. Their biggest single to date – “Best Of Friends” – succeeded in inciting a bit of laddish dancing and singalongs, but there wasn’t much sense that they brought anything more to the game than all the bands that held their place in the spotlight in years past. This isn’t to say that 180 won’t still surprise and reveal new depths, but whether their career trajectory will go more the way of The Vaccines or Brother remains unclear.
Photos: Palma Violets, Decades, Always @ The Horseshoe – January 24, 2013
Video: Palma Violets – “Step Up For The Cool Cats”
Video: Palma Violets – “Last Of The Summer Wine”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends”
Stream: Decades – “Celebrate”
Stream: Decades – “Can You Love Me Now”
Stream: Always – “Next Of Kin”
Stream: Always – “The Ones Who Love You”
The Guardian, Clash, and Spin profile Frightened Rabbit and their new album Pedestrian Verse. It’s out next week on February 5, but is available to stream at The Guardian right now. They’re at The Phoenix on March 31.
If you’d been hoping that the new old Pulp song that surfaced at the very end of last year might become available to purchase legitimately, rejoice – Artrocker reports that it should be available for iTunes download as of today (though not there at the moment, as far as I can tell). But if you’re happy with the stream, that’s cool too. Jarv ain’t fussed.
Stream: Pulp – “After You”
Stream: Richard Thompson / Electric
And normally I wouldn’t file a single tweet as news, but when it recounts Kevin Shields saying at last night’s My Bloody Valentine show as saying their new album would be available in “two to three days”… that’s news. You missed your 2012 deadline, Kev, but come through on this promise and all is forgiven.