Garage rock has been left in a bygone era, as seen in the climb of synthpop acts such as Lorde and CHVRCHES on the charts. Yet Palma Violets could not care less. Last Friday, the four-piece U.K. band electrified Sproul Plaza for ASUC SUPERB’s free fall concert series with its own riotous strain of noise punk.
Palma Violets, along with its opening act Skaters, transported the student body straight back to 2003, when garage rock revival was at its feverish peak, the Stooges were still the sound to emulate and guitar-acts were still making all the Pitchfork Media headlines.
In the past two years, Palma Violets has experienced an abrupt surge in both media attention and fan base size that most pub-performing, underdog bands dream of. Before even releasing its first LP, 180, the band had already been awarded NME’s track of the year for “Best of Friends” and was nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, a prestigious list of bands to watch. The hype train of Palma Violets has gained steam in the United States with the aid of stellar Rolling Stone magazine coverage, leading to gigs everywhere from Treasure Island to Coachella.
Palma Violets is a band that knows how to communicate its energy to the audience and get the crowd going. In songs such as “Best of Friends,” an attack of throbbing bass crashed into the chorus’ hectic cymbals, all while lead singer Samuel Thomas Fryer screamed his hardest into a fuzzed out microphone to make sure his girl heard his plea for love. By the time the contrastingly melodic solo hit the spot and cut into the song, the band had the whole crowd jumping wildly as a festive chaos of moshing and crowd-surfing began to emerge.
Palma Violets holds an anarchic stage presence that deems the group one of the few present-day contenders to hold the punk torch — they are seemingly straight musical descendants of the Clash and the Sex Pistols themselves. At strategic times in its performance, the band would quiet down into a soft lull, clearly an eye in the storm. Just as expected, the band would then do a classic jump in the air before an even harder assault of guitar, jolting the audience into dancing with more fervor. At the height of the band’s excitement, frontman Fryer hurtled his guitar right into the drummer’s cymbals as if he were ripped right off of the cover of the Clash’s London Calling.
The band is quick to avoid having its sound be pigeonholed by the media. Speaking on the influence of bands such as the Clash, keyboard player Jeffrey Peter Mayhew noted, “A lot of people have recognized the same sounds in our music, but, you know, we don’t go for emulating any particular type of sound.”
The band has also drawn comparison to its Rough Trade Records labelmates the Libertines and the Strokes, but Mayhew asserted, “I actually don’t particularly see ourselves identifying with them. I think they were definitely more deliberate in what they were aiming for.”
Ironically, Palma Violets’ music is the last to be considered genre-bending in any sort of way, and it is clear that the band’s vision is influenced by its distortion-heavy predecessors. Music journalism is in unanimous agreement that the band is “directly out of a sardine-packed club in 1977,” as described by Rolling Stone.
Yet instead of shying away from the media’s labels, Palma Violets should embrace and celebrate its musical lineage, just as the Libertines clearly did a decade ago. After all, consistent comparison to the Clash is far from the worst publicity a band can get.
Palma Violets’ studio album 180 demonstrates a clearly toned down mix, readily packaged by the record studio for a wider audience. However, the group’s Friday performance was unrestrained, and the uncompromisingly clamorous, near-deafening appeal of itsmusic shone through. It was a bit abrasive, but it was absolute rock ’n’ roll.
Contact Jason Chen at [email protected].