You can really tell that Palaye Royale are embracing their status as a buzz band, given how meticulously planned everything leading up to this moment has been. Just think about it – they re-released Boom Boom Room (Side A) around this time last year just as the groundswell was beginning to build, spent the subsequent months keeping it maintained while simultaneously teasing this second volume (in typically cryptic fashion, naturally), and decide to drop it when the hype around them is at their greatest. It’s honestly quite impressive and given the current industry climate, you can’t fault artists for playing the game to make the most of it, but the general nothingness around Palaye Royale has made the whole thing pretty hard to swallow. At least with the genuinely awful bands, there’s some kind of visceral emotion that can be let off at their blatant manipulation of industry politics; with Palaye Royale, you get a serviceable yet uninspiring glam-rock band that are only deemed hype-worthy because someone decided one day that they are.
And that all stems down to Boom Boom Room (Side B), which feels like even more of an attempt to tailor their sound for their newfound audience. It’s a lot shorter, for one, and finds the trio flexing their pop-rock muscles a bit more, be that in the overall cleaner style or the quite blatant thematic lifts from so many of the modern scene compatriots. Again, it’s quite obvious that Palaye Royale are playing the game to get the most out of their time in the spotlight before they’re inevitably shoved aside to make room for the next crop of fresh-faced moneymakers, but it hasn’t exactly done much for them. If anything, they’ve barely moved from their starting position, with a sound that’s different but hardly good, and just a general lack of anything interesting in everything they do.
And to pick out Boom Boom Room (Side B)’s biggest flaw, it’s how much that’s been affected by the pivot they’ve made here. For as dated and uninspired as Side A was, the vestige of extra scrappiness and roughness could be seen as something as a selling point; here, Palaye Royale are attempting to split the difference between that and super-refined pop-rock production, which reduces guitar presence down to watery fragments and drizzles a film over everything to give the illusion of that more organic style. There are occasional moments of guitar work peppered across the likes of You’ll Be Fine, but rather than expand them out to foster what was basically the one factor this band had going for them, they’ve been crushed into virtual nothingness and replaced with big clouds of production bluster to inflate this profoundly empty mix. It’s honestly quite uncomfortable to listen to, especially when Palaye Royale favour faster, more upbeat tempos that feel like little more than vehicles to get a catchy pop hook in. And when it wants to be, this album can be profoundly catchy on tracks like Teenage Doors Of Heartbreak and Hospital Beds, but given that Remington Leith continues to have no control over how his vocals slip across their natural range (only now with added filters to sound scratchy and raw instead of, y’know, the actual thing), a lot of potential appeal is greatly reduced.
But even then, it’s the fact that the band’s steps towards clear mainstream acceptance feel so blatant that’s so irksome, because while they’re not necessarily bad for what they are, the lack of any individuality whatsoever shows how clearly unready for this sort of thing they are, so much so that they feel the need to default to the most basic, underwhelming patter to get by. The flimsy social commentary of “We live in an age where all our bodies are flawed / We live in an age where sex and whores are God” on Death Dance is a pretty poor start, but when it’s followed by thinly-sketched archetypes of capricious women on Teenage Doors Of Heartbreak and Miss Infamous, and perhpas the most unconvincing display of rockstar debauchery possible on Dying In A Hot Tub, it feels as though Palaye Royale are rooting around their grab-bag of palatable tropes and throwing them out with as little consideration possible. It’s a bad sign when the best moments are tracks like You’ll Be Fine which aren’t amazing by any token, but at least remain forgettable enough to avoid anything too laughably bad.
Above all though, Boom Boom Room (Side B) just underlines how baffling it is that Palaye Royale are being held up on the pedestal that they currently are. Granted, it’s not uncommon for deeply average bands to be treated like they’re so much more, but here, they feel like such a non-entity in almost every field that it’s a wonder that anyone finds them so enjoyable, never mind the primarily young audience fixated on only the most contemporary of acts. Even if this album isn’t the absolute worst thing around, there’s nothing that stands out or leaves an impression beyond supreme tedium. It’s a good thing it’s so short, otherwise any negative judgements would probably be much harsher.
For fans of: The Libertines, Towers Of London, The Struts
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Boom Boom Room (Side B)’ by Palaye Royale is released on 28th September on Sumerian Records.