The debut album from London five-piece, Chapel Club, is by no means an immediate grabber. It first strikes you as being rather dull, with the minimalist sound that the band adopts feeling too empty to produce anything remotely interesting. But first impressions aren’t everything. With a bit of patience, it soon becomes clear exactly how Palace works and you’re able to step into their trippy musical world and appreciate just how brilliant the album is. At times seeming like a soundtrack from one of your worst nightmares, the album can also offer the music for your most euphoric dream. Lewis Bowman’s poetic lyrics of “shells and silvery scales and torrents of blue” and “palms hung like reconsidered suicides” combine with the haunting guitar melodies to create a phenomenally beautiful masterpiece.
Ignoring the pointless instrumental opener of ‘Depths’, Palace begins with what is by far the best track on the album, ‘Surfacing’. The bass and drums create a driving rhythm which, when joined by the chaotic guitars, explodes into a monumental chorus, with the unmistakable lyrics borrowed from Mama Cass’ ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’. The first few seconds of the proceeding track, ‘Five Trees’, suggest something horribly abrasive, but the song turns out to be another high point on the album, with a dynamic similar to ‘Surfacing’. This similarity is something which appears across the album, with the songs’ verses often consisting of very little other than bass, drums and vocals, with guitars taking a more subtle, background role, only to take centre stage in the choruses when everything comes together to reveal the copious amounts of energy that Chapel Club keep in reserve.
The band’s influences are clear on every track, with the album almost acting like a dedication to such bands as Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen, with the former unmistakably being heard through Bowman’s vocal style. The way the songs rely far more on the bass to create their sound, as well as the distinct presence it has in the mix, such as in ‘After The Flood’ and ‘White Knight Position’, is homage to those same ‘80s bands that can be heard everywhere else on the album.
There are no weak moments on Palace, and such songs as ‘All The Eastern Girls’ and ‘O Maybe I’ show that Chapel Club are able to write single material without losing their alternative sound. ‘Fine Light’, on the other hand, offers its accessibility through its perfectly chilled out vibe, which is transformed halfway though into a quick-paced escalation to musical ecstasy.
Palace is a strong debut from a band who we will certainly be seeing and hearing more of in the coming year, especially if their pre-album hype is anything to go by.