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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Album Review: Chapel Club - Palace

Released: 31st January
Label: Polydor

London five-piece Chapel Club have made a wise choice in delaying their debut album until a year after they appeared on most people's radars. With 12 months of building up a solid live reputation and teasing us with a string of very strong singles they've already deflected the needless comparisons to supposed peers and '80s influences/genres.

With the word 'gloom' carrying connotations of a sonic link to White Lies, may now be the best time to disassociate Palace with the trend. In the feelings and swells of the record there's much more stronger comparison to British Sea Power than with Joy Division. With, what you imagine to be parallel influences deployed to similar effect, the BSP aesthetic and delicate manipulation of sound and emotion is transported from the rolling hills and wartime farmlands to the windswept and storm-lashed coastal towns.

It's a picture built up from the off, with intro 'Depths' giving away to stunning single 'Surfacing'. Sure, this is soon followed by the maelstrom of our old friend 'Five Trees', but glistening album mid-point 'The Shore' is the sonic calm eye of the storm. The lapping waves introduce a Phil Spector like pulse and breathtaking wall of sound that allows six minutes to fly by with throbs of sound that can't help but penetrate to the emotional core of the listener.

'White Knight Position' is a pacier cut that bridges the gap between BSP's 'Mongk II' and Editors 'Papillon'. Driving electronic and Krautrock rythms are beaten into a Chapel Club shape, with noticeable shoegaze noise (something that's a key element to the sound of Palace). The guitar walls and sonic wails front the pummeling drums and pulsating bass guitar as much as the crooning vocals of Lewis Bowman.

A personal highlight for me comes in the form of 'Blind', a song that's surely a future single. The album's best bassline straps onto a flow and melody that could have fitted quite happily amongst the best moments of Open Season. The rhythmic delivery of the lyrics “low slung and highly strung, she said “run with that”” create something quite majestic that maintains a presence long after the albums running time.

Bringing us neatly onto a marginally negative factor with the Chapel Club debut. Aside from 'Blind' there's little that resonates emotionally past the running time. While listening, especially on headphones or in a darkened room lit by passing traffic, it's very easy to get caught up in the emotive swells. But once the record stops little of it stays with you and there's not enough incentive to immediately press to repeat button.

Perhaps this comes down to the way Chapel Club have created their own intelligent and literate film-noir world of Eastern girls and furtive glances. It's a successful move and an evocative place, but one that's so sparsely populated it's currently little more than a dreamlike state. In the coming years as Chapel Club continue down the path they've set and populate their world with characters and musical landmarks we can hope that the dream becomes lucid. Until this time consider the Palace a location to escape to when the waking world is that bit too drab.

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