Album Reviews

Chapel Club – Palace

(Polydor) UK release date: 31 January 2011


Is there room for another moody, five piece ‘indie’ group? Are we all groaning under the weight of existential angst delivered to us from the likes of White Lies, Editors, Glasvegas and the like?

Seemingly not, for Chapel Club are looking to pinch these bands’ fans from right under their noses with the statement of intent that is debut album Palaces. They might just pull it off, as well, for this is a band that might deal in moody, windswept rock, but they do so with a commendable lack of posturing and a bit of nicely applied subtlety.

Influences are worn liberally on sleeves. It’s not front man Lewis Bowman’s fault that he sounds like Ian McCulloch’s younger brother, but the backing sound also declares its fond love for Echo and the Bunnymen, closely followed by My Bloody Valentine. For Chapel Club also deal in swathes and swirls of guitar-based noise, and the louder you turn this record up, the greater the sense of wind and rain on your face, like scaling a pike in the Lake District.

In Five Trees the guitars are like great buckets of water flung at the listener full in the face, with snare drum volleys crashing around in the middle foreground. The clever update of Dream A Little Dream Of Me that is Surfacing has big drums too, a purposeful march with a steady tread and a strident bass line. With lots to admire in the production sound it’s easy to forsake the impact of Bowman’s vocal, a relatively understated creature that makes its presence felt through strength of lyric and, occasionally, melody.

Palace gets off to a flyer. Surfacing and Five Trees more than justify the band’s existence, delivered with the sort of confidence that suggests they might be in this for the long haul. Not for them the outright bombast of White Lies or the melodrama of Editors – this is straightforward music, delivered with a refreshing lack of fuss.

Unfortunately the momentum proves difficult to maintain, and, after the welcome respite offered by Hibbert’s coolly detached vocal on The Shore, things unwind on Fine Light. Beginning like a late Prefab Sprout opus, minus the whimsy, it goes through a sudden change of pace that accelerates the song into a vortex, from which it fails to return. From here a complete recovery is difficult, though the band do stay true to their sonic principles throughout.

With much to commend them and their sound, Chapel Club may not have the newest or freshest set of ideas on the block, but the inner confidence coursing through their veins suggests they are open to invention and greater emotion on future records. Just make sure you turn them up loud before diving in.


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More on Chapel Club
Chapel Club @ Leadmill, Sheffield
Chapel Club – Palace