It’s been a while, but here’s the second edition of “Bands in the Ring” – the category in which we let two bands battle each other in a range of disciplines. For this round Redheadess and Belle Brummell have picked two of the hottest UK newcomers, who’ve played the same club in Hamburg within five days, and both released their debut album within the span of a month. Let’s see how Peace-ful the Birmingham quartet will be when it goes against London garage punks – or whether Palma Violets will catch a “Veilchen” or two (which in German is both the flower “violet” and a term for a black eye).
The Story so far: The stories are still being written; for both bands this is only the first chapter. Palma Violets formed in late 2011, their debut album ‘180’ has been out for almost two months now and they’ve already built a large fan base. Whereas a year ago, people angrily tended to leave the club, slagging them off as ‘poor version of The Clash’ or ‘not the new Libertines at all’, they’re now selling out shows in mainland Europe, such as this one in Hamburg. They already have the 2013 NME Award for Best New Band up their sleeve, a category in which they’ve been up against acts like Django Django, Haim and, that’s right, Peace. The latter released their debut album ‘In Love’ exactly a month after Palma Violets, only two weeks ago, and even though they do already have a large fanbase and the fans at their Hamburg show almost kicked in the doors, the hype about Palma Violets casts a shadow. The award winners have been pushed to the top by NME with two front covers, will support The Rolling Stones at their epic Hyde Park show this summer and play Coachella Festival in California this week. I think it’s clear who wins this round by a landslide.
-> Score: Palma 1 – Peace 0
Background: You may say Palma Violets are rich, spoiled, London boarding-school kids. We agree with most of that. Not all of them have been to an elite school though, and with singer Chilli Jesson’s Dad having been the manager of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds for many, many years, the boys should know how the music business works. Peace are originally from Worcester but are said to be Birmingham-based (which doesn’t make them any cooler than capital boys, though). The brothers Sam and Harrison Koisser have been in multiple bands before, in 2004 already, while still in school. They do have more experience playing together with different people, and if you believe the words of The Guardian, then at least one member of Peace is distantly related to Michael J Fox, and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood swapped a pair of his cargo trousers for one of their demos. Palma Violets however had their album produced by Pulp’s Steve Mackey, collecting the coolness points this time around.
-> Score: Palma 2 – Peace 0
Musical Skill: Finally time to catch up for Peace, whose experience makes itself heard on their cleanly produced record and live alike. With their purposefully raunchy sound, Palma’s relative lack of skill matters little. It’s all about the raw energy and youthful spirit they convey. Peace’s more laid-back sound, though, makes a basic knowledge of music indispensable. On stage, they even break into long, psychedelic instrumental passages, something Palma wouldn’t be caught dead doing. However, both have notable skills in songwriting, delivering hook after hook. On the plus side for Palma, Sam Fryer possesses the voice of a 50-something heavy drinker, leaving Harrison Koisser’s boyish vocals with no chance to compete. Still, this point clearly goes to Peace.
-> Score: Palma 2 – Peace 1
Stylistic Invention: … is simply non-existent. While Peace dive merrily into 90s indie pop with a bubblegum flavour, Palma basically re-encact The Libertines’ career, sounding exactly like their noughties icons with an organ thrown in. Because of this near complete lack of ideas, nobody gains a point in this round. But let’s not be mean here: Only because something has been done before, doesn’t mean you can’t bring it back for a new generation to enjoy.
-> Score: Palma 2 – Peace 1
On Record: Palma clearly have an advantage here, as their album has been out a whole month longer than Peace’s debut, and has thus had more time to grow on us. Both records have melodies that stick, and Peace’s may be a whole lot stickier – which is already clear after a few spins. However, it is also the one that’s more likely to get on one’s nerves rather soon with its overacted happiness. Palma have the authenticity bonus – they still sound like they mean every line belted out at the top of their lungs, making up for the underperforming sound quality. In the end, the two records are too musically different to say which is “better” – but for us, Palma’s “180” is the one whose anthems will last (and we don’t mean the horribly overrated “Best of Friends”).
-> Score: Palma 3 – Peace 1
Live Performance: Seeing both bands live in the span of one week has left its traces not only on our bodies (because boy, those were a bunch of hot and sweaty shows!) but also in our minds. Not only did Palma Violets interact with each other on stage more, they also were the wild young things everyone said they were. Giving cigarettes to audience members, bringing their mascot/entertainer/merch guy with them to kick people’s arses and start a mosh pit, jumping into the crowd themselves and playing some punky cover in the end … once again, Peace could not climb that scale. They didn’t interact really, not with each other and not with the crowd, and singer Harrison was so high you were surprised he actually knew which city he was playing in. Sure, both audiences went absolutely wild, but the club was more packed at Peace’s show and moving was a privilege, while at the Palmas show you actually had some space to dance for yourself as long as you weren’t pulled into the mosh pit.
-> Score: Palma 4 – Peace 1
Appearance: Both bands consist of young and moderately good-looking men, but while Palma rely on their natural beauty to make fashion sense unnecessary (oversized suits, trackies and patterned shirts with shorts could all be seen on stage), Peace took their lack of taste to the next level and performed in sailor suits, a deviation from their usual mixture of nineties “white trash” and frontman Harrison Koisser’s fancy fur coats and retro sunglasses. Haircuts are also totally nineties – meaning, Peace’s are, and Palma don’t have any. In essence, both bands look their own kind of ridiculous, but Peace are at least clever enough to make it a “style”, and thus win by coolness points in this round.
-> Score: Palma 4 – Peace 2
Band name: Naming your band after the most disgusting sweets ever may or may not be a good idea. Surely people who know what Parma Violets – round violet-flavoured candies that come piled up to a roll – taste like would pull a face before even listening to the band. By exchanging the R for an L, it becomes even more dubious what the band was trying to say with the choice of name, but at least this makes it easier for people to google them, whereas Peace chose the worst possible band name ever for internet seach engines. Then again, it’s a typical name for their genre and era. Bands like Kindness and Childhood would agree, and not only does the band name fit their weird clothing style – sort of hippiesque but with a big wave of 90s washed over them – but also their airy-fairy behaviour. And then there’s debut album title: Peace – In Love. We love puns, and we may be falling In Love with Peace by now, so we’ll give that point to them.
-> Score: Palma 4 – Peace 3
Career Prospects: … are looking rather bleak. Both bands seem to have reached their prime already with the release of their debut. Peace rely too heavily on a certain fashionable “look” rather than a distinctive sound, and are thus bound to become irrelevant once the summer ends, while the NME’s hype machine has Palma in such a ferocious grip they’ll be left in shreds before making it to album no. 2. No points for anyone this round – it’s up to you to prove us wrong in the future.
-> FINALE SCORE: Palma 4 – Peace 3
Let’s face it: Most categories were hard to decide the winner of, but in the end Palma Violets just so win this race. It is very much a question of personal taste in music though, so we can only speak for ourselves. Obviously Peace have more musical skill, but Palma Violets are more of the cool hyped kids everyone wants a piece of, and they don’t even care about all that fuzz themselves. Both bands are still young, they will grow, and hey, maybe we’ll change our minds with their second albums coming out in a few years, who knows? We do confess this match was a bit unfair due to Palma Violets playing a proper concert and Peace only playing a live set during the usual Saturday night party some time around 12:30. Both bands stayed longer to have a big aftershow party though, and that’s just a plus for both of them. After all, the bands have toured together as well and everyone’s friends, and that’s all that counts in the end, innit?