Rating – 4/5
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Essex four-piece, Palps, drop their debut EP Letters to You (That I’ll Never Send); a post-hardcore influenced affair with some pop-punk elements thrown in to garner wider interest from the scene at large. The result is a familiar exploration of the many musical themes explored by the 2000s punk and emo heroes that laid the groundwork for this style.
The influence from emo/ punk contemporaries is clear; the title perhaps even a reference to Finch’s ‘Letters To You’; heavy distortion interspersed with cleaner guitar passages, the occasional vocal scream, and overall energetic performance. Vocalist Alex Gray, expands upon the great lyrical tradition of introspection, personal relationships and mental health, but does so in a way that is relatable.
‘New Lows’ is a growling, dark opening; a gradual feedback swell drops into a distorted opening riff. The vocals are well executed for the style but lack any real dynamic range between chorus and verse. A solid opening track that is typical of the genre.
‘Fabric’ opens with somewhat of a half-hearted vocal scream; something between a late-night regurgitation after too many pints and a shriek. Harder commitment to the sound would be better, rather than what feels like a gimmicky way to grab attention. Having said that, the rest of the vocals are reminiscent of a Yellowcard track in their heyday; strong delivery and a nice addition of background call and response. Dynamically there’s a lot more variation in the instrumentation than the opener which provides more interesting listening; the bridge builds suspense nicely and the outro breakdown is strong.
‘Black Mould’ is the standout track, a superb blend of elements that results in a whirlwind of distortion, driving rhythm and excellent vocal phrasing. The open, ringing harmony provided by the guitars is the perfect backdrop to the rest of the track. The drumming especially is noteworthy, a rock-solid performance with a generous helping of creative fills and technical elements.
‘S.A.D’ is the shortest track coming in at 1.28. Again, like the rest of the EP, the performance is strong but it feels like it doesn’t really showcase anything particularly different or interesting that we haven’t already heard. Granted it does segue into the final track ‘Jumbo’, so it can be forgiven for its presence, but it feels like an unnecessary addition.
However there is good news; ‘Jumbo’ provides a really interesting and honest showcase of the group’s musical ability. The melodic yet simple guitar line drifts upwards from the darker sludge underneath very nicely providing a nice contrast. Similarly, a fire is lit underneath vocalist Alex Gray and provides a good distinction between his low muted style and a more strangled, high register very smoothly. The bridge and outro sections are superb, low thundering drums, stylish clean guitar, and the twangy bass are eminently clear through the mix; a real display of musicianship.
This is a really solid first EP, great production, good chops from each member all around and a winning formula backed by a solid foundation of strong influences. Throw in another 3 or 4 tracks as strong as the best ones here and you’ve got a fantastic debut album.
Review by Theo Wildgoose