Every since winning a place on last year’s NME Emerge Radar Tour and their subsequent ordination into the church of high indie, the expectation surrounding Chapel Club’s debut has been building. Their release of a fan-club only E.P. last December only added fuel to the fire, securing their place as one of the most hotly-anticipated acts of the New Year.
The reasons for this delay are not quite so cutting edge or avant-guard however. Just as the initial enthusiasm for their debut single Surfacing was reaching a crescendo, the owners of the song Dream A Little Dream launched a legal case against their use of the lyric, postponing its release.
Nevertheless, listening to Palace it seems none of the momentum has been lost – at least not after the wailing samples and limp suspense of the deceptively titled opening track Depths. After this false start, early tracks such as After The Flood and White Knight Position present their core arsenal of delay pedals, reverb and marching rhythm sections, which remain consistent throughout the record.
Vocalist Lewis Bowman embellishes this post-rock, ‘shoegaze’ sound with his characteristic deep monotone, something that has led to comparisons with acts ranging from White Lies to Joy Division. The quality of the lyricism is strikingly diverse; the opening chant of ‘So long my weekend lover’ in Five Trees sounds worryingly engineered for the lad-rock festival crowd – a sound which stands at odds with the dark and alluring imagery of After the Flood: ‘The palms hung like reconsidered suicides/From the red ponds of mountain sides’.
The album seems to be designed to be assimilated into your consciousness in just one listen; the brief foray into upbeat melodies that underpins closing track Paper Thin acts as an antidote to the melancholy of the ten tracks that precede it. The band toured extensively prior to this album’s release – and it shows; singles such as All of the Eastern Girls and O Maybe I provide an infectious core, yet still manage to fit neatly into the tapestry of the album as a whole.
The standout track on the album has to be Fine Light, which intertwines intricate lyricism with typically reverb-heavy soundscapes, culminating in a millenarian haze of sirens and feedback. It typifies their ability to – in one song – shift between time signatures, move from tonal to atonal and conduct polar shifts in lyrical-focus, yet still present a sound that is catchy and coherent.
Indeed, listening to Palace as a whole you get the impression that this band by no means plan to sit on their laurels: let’s hope this strong debut marks only the first testament of Chapel Club.