Oh so po-faced London quintet Chapel Club attempt to build on the success of a wealth of early singles, lyrical plaudits and Zane Lowe’s hyperactive praise with their debut album, Palace, and their attempt to sit atop the throne of doomy, gloomy indie with White Lies, Editors and friends. It would have been easy, too, for Lewis Bowman et al to sweep up their purportedly ridiculous label signing fee, don a few more roll-neck sweaters and be done with it, turning in a half arsed effort filled with enough doom-laden lyricism and screeching guitar to keep their new bosses happy. But they haven’t.
Opener ‘Depths’ ushers us in, a paranoiac, murky instrumental track that shimmers and twinkles along before leading us into early, early demo and current single ‘Surfacing’. While the chorus is not exactly the most immediate you’ll have heard, the frankly utterly ridiculous appropriation of the Mamas and Papas classic ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ will soon find itself well and truly nestled in your head. Following ‘Surfacing’ is former single ‘Five Trees’, with its swirling chorus surrounded by a wall of grungy guitars that move towards breaking point before reigning itself back in at the end. There’s no breaking of boundaries here, but they subscribe to a formula in a much less predictable manner than many of their contemporaries, while the rich baritones of singer Bowman sound lush, smooth and never monotonous.
Palace begins to feel a touch laborious as it moves towards its middle, where tracks like ‘After the Flood’ and ‘White Knight Position’ suffer from an oddly flat production – surprising considering producer Paul Epworth’s relative merits – and Bowman’s voice sounds suffocated by the sheer noise of his band. Standout single ‘The Shore’ gets things back on track, showcasing Bowman’s adept lyricism and justifying those Morrissey comparisons, while ‘Blind’ crashes on with a sublimely melodic chorus and the needling guitar work of ‘Fine Light’ recalls Editors ‘Munich’.
Two previous singles in ‘O Maybe I’ and ‘All the Eastern Girls’ join album finale ‘Paper Thin’ in a trio of excellent closing tracks. ‘O Maybe I’’s lilting, swaggering bass line complements Bowman’s sneering cynicism perfectly, lyrically reminiscent once again of Morrissey and sonically of Ian McCulloch – comparisons that this bunch haven’t been too eager to dismiss. ‘All the Eastern Girls’ is Bowman’s poetic paean to beautiful girls, and while it doesn’t say much of much importance, it yields another one of those epic climactic soundscapes that these guys do so well. Finally, ‘Paper Thin’ nails a softer affectation to add another dimension, and Palace shimmers out the same way it began. They won’t top any end of year polls or classic debut lists with this effort, but it shouldn’t be left without honourable mention. Palace bears the fruit of a band who’ve worked hard to make themselves heard, and providing they avoid well trodden generic indie rock paths, this lot are a genuinely interesting prospect for the next few years.
From Joe Abbitt.