Album Review: Palace – Chapel Club

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Album Reviews, music
Tags: , , , ,

Palace - Chapel Club

There’s something I find appealing about “Palace”, the first album release by London Band Chapel Club. Dark, moody and melodic, with plenty of atmospheric echo and sound layering, the music sounds powerful without being overbearing, and fairly orchestral sounding for a five piece with all the standard instrumentation. While tracks seemed a bit too similar by the end of the first listen, subsequent plays reveal a fair bit of variety within the self-imposed constraints of defining a distinct Chapel-Club sound.

That sound owes a fair bit to the 80s. Chapel Club cite New Order as an influence, and you can certainly hear that. I can also hear a bit of Jesus and Mary chain, some Morrissey, and a dash of Echo and the Bunnymen. Front man Lewis Bowman has a lot to do with invoking that vibe, with his deep, relaxed baritone. At his best, Bowman conjures up some decent lyrical imagery that helps put this album a cut above others made by artists of their age. “All the Eastern Girls” is my favourite example of that.

Chapel Club are often most effective when the song pace allows Lewis’s vocals to roll out unhurried, as bassist and drummer Liam Arkle and Rich Mitchell provide steady propulsion below, such as on the opening track, “Surfacing” (which is currently stuck in my brain). The way that the chorus of the Mama Cass standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me” is lifted wholesale and dropped into the refrain of “Surfacing” nearly made me laugh the first time I heard it, but it wasn’t long before the initially jarring juxtaposition felt like a perfect fit.

The role of guitarists Michael Hibbert and Alex Parry seems to be to support the songs, as opposed to being flashy guitar slingers. As such, they fill out the sound with arpeggios and subtle flourishes that work perfectly well without necessarily drawing attention away from the arrangements.

The Deluxe version of “Palaces” includes a four song EP that’s well worth obtaining. These aren’t outtakes, but four songs recorded after the “Palaces” sessions, originally released only on vinyl and available at only one gig in Manchester last December. The sound is slightly different than the album, perhaps not quite as big, but the feel seems to flow a bit easier and be a bit more intimate. I won’t be disappointed if this is a preview of their evolving sound.


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