With allegations of abuse currently swirling around one of the most energetic bands I’ve seen live, Chicago’s The Orwells and feeling desperately sad for both the alleged victims and the couple of band members who appear clean of accusation, it brought me to reflecting about happier times where your heroes didn’t let you down and some of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t long before a couple of magical nights with the wonderful Palma Violets came to mind. The band’s reckless and chaotic style paved the way for the likes of the Fat White Family and Shame to continue the hedonistic vibe.
Unfortunately the Violets kind of fizzled out and my last experience of the band live was seeing a rather weary bunch where the new tracks received a muted response while the old tracks were greeted like old friends. Once again there was an on-stage tension between Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson. While the band always came across in interviews as the best of friends, the on-stage body language didn’t always convey it, and I always felt the band just wasn’t big enough for those two huge personalities.
So, it has come as no surprise to learn that the Palma Violets have officially gone in two directions, although the band insist it was a growing up and a growing apart rather than a big punch up. Chilli was last seen in Crewel Intentions while the remaining Violets band members are now 60% of Gently Tender, who have dropped a couple of tracks on us this month. The Big Moon’s Celia Archer and guitarist Adam Brown make up the band.
The real class act of the two new tracks is the wonderfully ambitious 2 Chords Good. The song took a conversation with a friend as its inspiration, and a introspection about where Fryer’s life was going. It’s a glorious merging of the sound of Pulp and Syd Barrett, complete with full gushing sound, trippy bits and biting observation.
The band are named after an Incredible String Band song from their seminal 1967 album The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, and is a hippy folk sitar influenced ramble, which is probably about as far from The Palma Violets sound as can possibly be.
The second track Avez-Vous Deja is led by a growling slow rumble and which reminds me somewhat of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s brilliantly ruined deep slow gothic drawl when he sings with those bands that aren’t Iceage (the most excellent VAR and Marching Church). Yes I know controversy follows that man around too. There is a slightly Krishna hopeful positive chant in Avez-vous Déjà that rather reminds me also of Albarn in super reflective mode.
It has to be said that the two tracks so far dropped show that Gently Tender have an incredibly wide range of sounds and influences which gives a much more multi dimensional offer than the Violets ever could serve up. It’s early days but the tracks really mark these guys out as expanding, inspirational and true musicians and are no one night stand. The future may no longer be violet, but in truth I’m even more excited for Gently Tender.
Catch the buzz live at an early gig for the band at the Manchester Yes venue on 27 November.