What exactly makes a great band? On paper, the answer seems obvious – good songs first and foremost, and then perhaps some kind of image or novelty that augments them. The thing is though, in the internet age where any form of criticism is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated, the actual music seems to be the least important factor in whether or not a band is considered great, falling behind their overall image and, most crucially, whether they can shift the units and appeal to the widest possible audience. As long as you can play the game well enough to accumulate a sizable fanbase, quality is no object.
With that in mind, it’s tough to place where the sudden burst of popularity for Palaye Royale stems from. Sure, the glam-goth look is probably a factor, as is the association with a band like Black Veil Brides, but surely that can’t be it, right? What’s probably an explanation for that is the narrative being spun for their debut album Boom Boom Room (Side A), and how it’s apparently bringing something of a glam-rock flavour to the Warped Tour scene. And let’s make this clear from the off – apart from Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin Quinn on backing vocals on Ma Chérie, there’s nothing about this album that even remotely has any connection to that world. It would certainly be better if it did, mind, considering that half the time Palaye Royale come across as a poor garage-rock pastiche, and the other half sees them playing with tones more befitting of an act like The Kooks.
At least it comes with a bit more energy; there’s actual pace and momentum that drives Don’t Feel Quite Right and Where Is The Boom? that’s more than can be said for so many other classic-leaning bands, and from a production standpoint, Palaye Royale never go so far as to drown their songs with leaden, unworkable mixes, which is an objectively preferable outcome. That’s not to say what they do is much better though, paring down any intended rock ‘n’ roll flair to a degree where the flat, thinned-out buzzes of Mr. Doctor Man and Live Like We Want To are the best overall results. As far as pure-blooded rock ‘n’ roll goes, Palaye Royale’s take is about as underwhelming and gentrified as it gets, particularly when slipping over into territory that so liberally borrows from modern indie, like the Catfish And The Bottlemen clone that is Warhol, or the pithy skip of Ma Chérie which would have fit seamlessly on any number of mid-2000s landfill-indie albums.
None of this is inherently bad in itself, but when Palaye Royale find so little to do with it, Boom Boom Room (Side A) runs its course much sooner than it should. It largely comes with the fact that there isn’t much of anything novel here – the production never gives the guitars the same amount of body as the drums, and the lyrics boil down to broadly-sketched glam-rock stereotypes – but Palaye Royale are apparently oblivious to all of that, given how they try to stretch this album out as long as it can possibly go. With tracks like How Do You Do? and Rag Doll reaching natural endpoints and then completely ignoring them to ramble on for a bit longer, it pushes this album to just below an hour long, and with the shockingly little that’s actually achieved in that time, it becomes a chore to listen to the whole thing in one sitting.
Thank God for Remington Leith then, who fills the role of frontman with a necessary elasticity and vivacity to at least give the illusion of an interesting presence. The bright side is that he does actually have a lot of personality rather than being another faceless nobody pretending to be Robert Plant or Steven Tyler, and there’s variety in his vocal performance that’s definitely appreciated. But that also comes with the significant issue of him not being a great technical vocalist at all. Other than the occasional flickers of an attempted British accent that feels really awkward, there’s so little control to his vocals, sliding off the metre and having no consistent method of delivery to the point where they become actively grating to listen to. Sure, there’s rawness in a track like Too Many People that’s good to have around, but that’s one positive in an area that doesn’t really have much else going for it.
It only serves as another piece of what makes analysing the growing popular of Palaye Royale all the more baffling. Boom Boom Room (Side A) certainly isn’t without merit, but while it might be good to have a band like this around at all, it’d be even better if they knew how to manage what they have to yield more interesting results. At the minute, Palaye Royale are in the right ballpark, but the way they’re tailoring their sound is so boilerplate and middle-of-the-road that it’s difficult to find any legitimate reason worth paying attention, other than that might lead to something better in the future. As true as that may be, Palaye Royale aren’t doing much to get any hopes up.
For fans of: The Hives, Towers Of London, Catfish And The Bottlemen
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Boom Boom Room (Side A)’ by Palaye Royale is released on 24th November on Sumerian Records.