As his track record suggests, Geoff Travis is a man who knows what he’s talking about; the boss of record label Rough Trade has made some hugely successful signings in his time, notably The Smiths, The Strokes and The Libertines. So, inevitably when he persuades an artist to agree upon a contract, music industry people (I always read about these ‘people’ but who are they?) tend to sit up and take notice. One of his most recent coups was to snatch Alabama Shakes from the snapping jaws of rival labels; their album Boys and Girls has sparked much salivating from critics and punters alike this year. And now he has caused a stir by recruiting south-east London four-piece Palma Violets apparently off the back of only one song. Unfortunately, we don’t even have that luxury - the only available recordings are a few painful videos of live performances on Youtube. But they must be good, surely? To place that much faith in a band with potentially only one good tune you must have fairly strong belief. No doubt we will find out pretty soon with the record label sure to take advantage of the hype by rushing out a single.
Like many others with a keen interest in music, I get quite excited any time there is lots of excitement surrounding a new band. I still remember hearing people feverishly talking about the Arctic Monkeys before I had actually heard anything by them. And I think this is how it should be. The days when new music was shared by word of mouth are a thing of the past so it is a real thrill to experience that buzz about a mysterious new act.
Consequently, I am disappointed to see that ALREADY the backlash has started. The Guardian has a fantastic feature on their website called ‘new band of the day’ which has, on a number of occasions, opened my eyes to exciting new music. However, in their piece on Palma Violets from the 17th May, they are guilty of one of my pet hates - criticism for effect. Paul Lester, author of the article, has a right to express his opinion having watched them support the aforementioned Shakes, but rather than constructively criticise the performance or the music he has clearly set up camp on the anti-Palma Violets side of the river and has no intention of deconstructing his tent and pouring water on the camp fire any time soon. It is understandable to take this anti-hype view if the artist is getting over-played by Fearne Cotton and their face is on the front of NME every week but to come down so strongly against a group who have not yet produced any music is confusing and narrow-minded.
Unfortunately, the ubiquity of the internet means that everyone wants to say something different and often this leads to comments not based on thought or true consideration. But why can’t critics just wait to see what the music is actually like? Who knows, maybe Rough Trade will guide the group down a completely different direction to the ‘garage rock’ genre in which they have been pigeon-holed. It would be nice to see critics not feel the urge to be so vehemently pro or against for a change. A spot of fence-sitting ambivalence would be strangely refreshing in this case. The fence is certainly where I will be perching for the time being even if I may join in with the excited whisperings and animated gossiping that will surround this band for a little while longer.
Here is the terrible live film that I mentioned:
And here is some stuff currently trending on the Milward jukebox: