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Revisiting Palma Violets ‘180’ five years later

One night in 2015 my roommate Courtney came home very drunk slurring about hanging out with a band in a bathroom and watching them take a shit ton of drugs. I kind of knew who Palma Violets were at the time and at the very least knew that they were one of her absolute favorite bands. What I didn’t know was that I was two years behind.

Their sophomore album, Danger In The Club, had just come out to some pretty mediocre reviews. Being a review-whore, I just wrote them off as another trending, nostalgia-obsessed band that would come and go like many more before. And, then, on a whim, I listened to the opening song, “Best of Friends” from their debut album, 180. That’s when I got it.

Nostalgia bands are a dime a dozen, but few have had the raw energy and lovable joy that Palma Violets captured in 180. While “Best of Friends” is one of their more accessible singles, it’s still an absolute hit that could send any fan of rock music, classic or modern, into a frenzy. Not even the most cynical of Brooklyn crowds can resist throwing themselves around while singers Samuel Fryer and Alexander Jessen scream-sing “I wanna be your best friend/Don’t want you to be my girl.” And, outside of its impeccable classic punk rock energy, the lyrics are still a breath of fresh air against endless indie bands crooning about unrequited love.

What follows on 180, which turns five years old on February 25th, just barely reaches the messy heights of the opening track, but it still makes for one of the best debuts of 2013. The record feels like a stuffy basement built with cheap wood panelling, where the local teenage band throws shows for their friends as an excuse to abuse their instruments. It tastes like a cheap beer with the edge of a paper bag caressing your lips with each sip against a Lower East Side summer night. And it smells like a bathroom decked out with too much graffiti and stickers.

There’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s something we don’t hear often. The word “pure” consistently comes to mind when describing the record. Every track soars with a pure rush of young, scrappy energy. In particular, “Chicken Dippers” and “Johnny Bagga’ Donuts” are the closest you’ll get to capturing the fun of The Doors without ripping them off—and they’re all the better for that. Are the lyrics or riffs anything groundbreaking? Absolutely not. But they sure as hell will get you to scream and shout.

Back in 2015, I was kicking myself for not finding this band sooner. Their shows were rumored to be one of the most fun sets of that year. All of which makes it such a shame that their second album was so underwhelming. That raw, sweet energy had soured and the record somehow felt like a chore to make. It’s filled with fuzz and scream-singing like the first, but they started to sound like every other indie punk band at the time. They haven’t released anything since 2015, so here’s hoping this hiatus will help them reconnect with what made them the talk of the scene five years ago.

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