Campag Velocet. Terris. The Paddingtons. Ghosts of NMEs Past. And now Palma Violets have found themselves aligned with that sorry bunch. It’s a full house at Queen’s Social Club tonight and if the gathered souls don’t stand with arms folded waiting to be impressed, then they may as well do.
The punters tonight, aside from the young and the hip that make up a third of the QSC, are mostly in their thirties and forties. Music has the right to older people, as Warp stalwarts Boards of Canada forgot to say. Are the kids all hopped up on goofballs and listening to post-dubstep? Probably. But there have been too many false dawns in the search for the next Libertines or other such breakout act, someone to re-ensnare the youth back into the gig-going community.
There’s an urgency on display here, however, that is heartening. The two frontmen, Sam Fryer on guitar and Chilli Jesson on bass, have a strong dynamic, an undeniable chemistry. Although Fryer has the insouciant drawl and croon of Carl Barât, you couldn’t pin Jesson down as a Doherty, as he is more of a young Joe Strummer, or maybe Springsteen. Highly excitable, he moves like one possessed; threatening the mosh pit with his bass before menacingly flicking his fringe in their direction. The pair swap lead vocal duties with regularity; though Jesson has a tendency to over-egg the hype-man role when it is Fryer’s turn.
If it’s kind of a snotty punk sound, then that is further reflected in Will Doyle’s chaotic drumming, he smashes away like a true DC hardcore journeyman. But it is the keyboardist Pete Mayhew who gives it a veneer of psychedelia. He’s their ace-in-the-hole, their Clint Boon, and by God do they need him. For the most part he props up the three chord tricks, though on ‘All The Garden Birds’ he gets a brief chance at being front-centre, and the music is all the better for it. They kick off ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ with a wholesale lift from ‘I Fought The Law’, but that’s pretty much the best bit.
Which is the crux of the problem. They haven’t got the songs or the ideas. ‘Best of Friends’ gets the strongest reaction of the night by far, and it’s easy to see why. It’s something of their own, and a decent post-pub singalong, whereas the rest of their set is cobbled together from bits of pieces of better artists. ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ has almost exactly the same refrain as ‘Over And Over’ by ‘Hot Chip’, except stripped of any of the latter band’s wry self-deprecating humour. Maybe it isn’t what they are going for, but they have the intellectual depth of a RickRoll. It’s not even smart-dumb, it’s just dumb.
‘I can’t believe we are getting away with this’ says Jesson at one point following an improv section after technical issues. Hmmm… They are for the minute, but if they evoke Bradford City’s cup run, with everyone swept up in the euphoria of the plucky underdog having his day, then eventually, sadly, they’ll be found out.