Less raging, but instead more soulful and folk-like. We remember the amazing Step Up for the Cool Cats and the dazzling success story of the Palma Violets, who were destined to take over from The Libertines. As early as 180, released in 2013 by Rough Trade, the four Londoners won the Best New Band award at the NME Awards and opened for Miles Kane. But then, just one album later, the rock combo broke up, to the great displeasure of an already hardened and now lonely fanbase. Gently Tender is a bit of a rebirth of the Palmas, without the bass of Chilli Jesson who left to form Crewel Intentions, but instead with that of Celia Archer (also keyboardist) of the female quartet The Big Moon, and guitarist Adam Brown.
The result of five years' work, the album Take Hold of Your Promise!, released by So Young Records, changes gear. Gone is the fiery and passionate rock inspired by the Clash and Nick Cave, and instead we welcome the warm inspiration from folk, soul and choral singing. On the production side, we find the soulful Matthew E. White, a perfect candidate for this mix of genres, who made the journey during the pandemic from Richmond in Virginia to Rockfield Studios in Wales.
On vocals, Sam Fryer explains, "These lyrics were written during the first lockdown. Like many people, I spent many hours reflecting on life before the pandemic." In these aspirational anthems, the quintet naturally chose to deploy melodies inspired by 70's psychedelic folk, such as Soft Machine or The Incredible String Band (who inspired the name of one of the tracks), that are set perfectly against a rich instrumental backdrop.
After the harmonica of the haunting and soulful Home Anymore, the horns of the explosive Love All the Population, somewhere between the Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, the band go into a more reflective mood with the soulful hippie interlude Ain't No Valley Low Enough and the more melancholic True Colours. Meanwhile, there is Dead Is Dead, with its more straightforward rock, and then there is the gospel closing This Is My Night of Compassion which diversifies the register, always with a gentle touch. As a modern-day crooner/preacher Fryer and his unique cavernous voice excel throughout the entire album. Qobuzissime!