Tuesday, 11 October 2011


I wrote this pretty extensive review of the Palace of Justice's debut album of earlier this year back in April but never got round to doing anything much with it. Here it is at last (better late than never?) and it's also posted here in heated anticipation for the imminent release of PoJ's sophomore effort, 'Once And For All' which is being mixed as we speak. It's all very exciting and I for one cannot wait to hear what the boys have come up with after what seems like months of hard work in a rehearsal studio up in Manor House and at the mixing 'deck' in Turnpike Lane.


From the minute ‘Hormones’ chimes out its first few bars, The Palace of Justice’s debut album is instantly compelling. Frenetic drumming pedals a rhythmic march that doesn’t let up for the entire three minutes of joyous adolescent angst - and I use the lattermost phrase with absolute sincerity, since Palace (or PoJ) could never be accused of indulging in clich├ęs, whether they be musical or lyrical. That’s the overwhelming feeling that this album delivers. Every syllable and every note is plated in 24-carat, solid gold integrity, supported by accomplished song-writing and unreserved spirit.

Though easily the most hyperactive, speedy number on the album, and, arguably, the most obvious ‘single choice’, Hormones is a stunningly good song, both in composition and when played live. The sharp and crisp drumming of Nick Harley propels the song forward, giving all the tracks a wonderful momentum that’s one of the real merits of PoJ’s musical style. Hearing Hormones live, it really is impossible to keep your feet still, testament to the fact that Palace really aren’t a ‘stand-still-fold-your-arms-and-stay-put’ kind of band. Although the band members have stated on numerous occasions that they are trying to phase it out of their current set, Hormones still manages to creep back in, and there’s a very good reason for that. It sounds like a hit, and by any ‘justice’, it should be.

Second track and another live favourite ‘Breathe a Word’, slows the pace down slightly, the calm following the record’s incendiary beginning. However (and importantly), this is in no way jarring, the vocals maintaining the exasperated tension that characterised Hormones only in a more deliberated way. Throughout the album, George Clark’s vocals are an absolute triumph, the ideal counterpart to his Spanish guitar, which forms the bedrock of the melodic structure of Palace’s songs. Gorgeously rich in tone and delivered with passion, vitality, and yet also humility, his vocals add to the band’s natural and understated charisma, a rare thing indeed in rock music today.

Additionally, in ‘Breathe a Word’, you can catch some female vocals in the chorus, which add depth to the song and its narrative, and it would certainly be interesting to hear more of them. The dual vocals reinforce the dialogue between male and female, of tempestuous, young love, a theme that characterises a large majority of the album’s content. Lyrics often speak of lost love in a dare I say it, almost Leonard Cohen-esque way. This is obviously dangerous territory for such a young band, but it’s negotiated pretty much flawlessly and with utter conviction, so much so that the songs could easily have been written by an older, world-weary gentleman and no one would bring their sincerity into question. The refrain of ‘I’ve not denied the past, I’ve held onto my goals’ in ‘Albatross’ rings true for this.

The lyrics truly are the work of genuine song-smiths, given due attention through small linguistic details and made all the better for it. Toying with double entendres and sketching out complex, extended metaphors, they are especially poetic, though always reigned in to create a memorable and highly listenable brand of ‘anti-folk’, gypsy indie rock. Songs like ‘Frogspawn’ and ‘Coffee Cups’ are case and point to this observation, and also allow bassist Ed Sibley the chance to stretch his (lead) vocal chords, which works beautifully. His sweet and unaffected delivery are the perfect accompaniment to the whimsical narratives in each track. Frogspawn slurs into the epic opening strumming of ‘Seal My Eyes’, in my opinion one of the record’s stand-out tracks. When Clarke asks, ‘What’s the worst thing I can do to you?’ in the opening line, it may well just be the most harrowing lyric on the album. Lacking any hint of inflated bravado however, the song progresses to tell a more complex tale of frustrated love and desire, a mini-epic of the ‘aching heart’.

Ultimately, The Palace of Justice’s sound is full and yet propulsive, like a heart-beat; the often finger-light drumming a military call-to-arms, yet countered by melodies full of depth and intensity. The Spanish guitar lends the songs a carnivalesque quality that sounds completely unique alongside the thought-provoking lyrics and vocal arrangements.

I honestly cannot recommend this album highly enough. It is one of the most legitimate things I’ve heard in a very long while and has made early mornings on the 29 almost bearable of late, which is no easy feat.

Photo: John Higgins

Also, it’s absolutely free to download from http://thepalaceofjustice.bandcamp.com/

Better still, catch the band at one of their upcoming gigs. See www.myspace.com/thepalaceofjustice.

Kate Trash


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