This British scene, whatever it is, is in phenomenal shape. We already have a scintillating Employed To Serve album this year. In July they begin touring with Milk Teeth. Despite often sharing little musically these bands, along with HECK, Creeper, Black Peaks and others, are unwittingly combining dissimilar sounds and creating a real moment for British alternative music.
Later this year one of the British underground’s most anticipated albums of 2017 will be tearing up speakers and stages all over the country. The third album by Palm Reader is on its way, and it matters. Without artists of Palm Reader’s integrity and ability, heavy music has nothing.
I enjoyed HECK’s debut. I love Creeper. The Warmth Of A Dying Sun blew me away. But it’s Palm Reader that most tickle my fancy.
There are a handful of bands that come along in a lifetime that are just right. They arrive in one’s consciousness out of nowhere and are instantly perfect. They seem to not have a word or a note out of place. The relationship that follows is destined to be special.
That’s what Palm Reader are to me. Since reviewing their second record, Beside The Ones We Love, I’ve had no choice but to play their albums obsessively and tell anyone who’ll listen to, well, listen.
From that flawless second effort I went back to their debut, Bad Weather, already knowing it would be brilliant. It is. Like its successor there’s not a scrap of fat on it.
Palm Reader’s sound is distinctively British. It’s harsh and heavy. It has crunch. Through their changes of pace, their technicality and their artistry, Palm Reader conjure claustrophobia from infinity.
This is a band that puts intensity into its work and then regurgitates it tenfold in the final outcome. Palm Reader don’t carry a sliver of unnecessary bullshit and that feeds their creative output, lending it the kind of believability it simply wouldn’t work without.
Their incredible songwriting is Palm Reader’s most potent weapon but there’s also value in being real. When we talk about bands, we talk about authenticity. We crave it. It makes the bands we love, the bands we love.
When Palm Reader last passed through Birmingham I spoke to Josh Mckeown and Josh Redrup after their set. Talented and annoyingly handsome men both, but also sweaty punks who played a show that made the world a better place and then acted as if I was doing them a favour by being there.
The gift was not my attendance, but their performance. On stage, Palm Reader are one of the UK’s most thrilling bands, electric and energetic and wholly absorbing. Their old mantra holds true; they do indeed play hard and fast. But their artistic side gets a thorough airing too, and in the slower moments it’s impossible to take your eyes off them.
The mix of aggression and refined introspection has been there from the beginning. Their 2013 debut album, Bad Weather, starts with a song that’s fully-packaged, finished-article Palm Reader. ‘Unwanted Guest (Grace, Pt. 1)’ is a study in measured heaviness married to Mckeown’s ability to somehow deploy the lyrics to bare his soul.
‘Smack Hound’, among others, displays Palm Reader’s willingness to strip back the instrumental noise and allow the vocal to dish out the ugly truths that transform the band’s live shows into pure catharsis. Bad Weather blends this dark poetry with a rapid and technical punk punch.
Two years later they released Beside The Ones We Love, a brain-melting follow-up crafted and recorded over two brutal weeks in a lock-up in the West Midlands. It’s a fitting playmate for Bad Weather, and a step up in groove and, to my ears at least, in quality.
From the unexpected bounce in the middle of ‘I Watch The Fire Chase My Tongue’ and ‘Black Hands’, to the haunting build and guttural pay-off of ‘Sing Out, Survivor’ – their crowning achievement as artists, as far as I’m concerned – Beside The Ones We Love delivers on every nuanced aspect of the enormous promise of what came before.
Palm Reader tie complex ideas to impulsive instincts. It’s easy to get swept away by their layered music, and yet it offers so much more beneath the surface. It takes on even more meaning when consumed live.
And there’s more to come. ‘Always Darkest’ was released as a single in February but isn’t expected to appear on the album that’s making me fizzy with anticipation.
That’s Palm Reader: a band that will discard one of the best songs of the year so far because it doesn’t fit their specific vision for the new record. If that was a decision based on quality, God help the ears of the nation.
Palm Reader photos by Dave Musson.
Don’t forget: you can stream and buy Jurassic Parkour, the second EP by WAVE, on our Bandcamp page.