There are worse people to have singing your praises than Damon Albarn. Brotherly duo The Bots have been living with the weight of the Brit-pop legend’s comments on their shoulders since they wowed crowds, fresh-faced and ready to impress, on his Africa Express train tour in 2012. Debut (proper, these two brothers recorded their first full-length when they were barely in their teens) release time is the prime moment to live up to the hype, to justify the simmering anticipation that has been building since the slapshot of LA punk that was 2013’s EP, ‘Sincerely Sorry’.
While ‘Pink Palms’ doesn’t deliver the same urgent and acerbic blast of last year’s offering, it represents the benchmark for The Bots‘ songwriting talents in this still-embryonic stage in their career.
For the uninitiated, The Bots are a product of the diverse LA rock scene. Their sound is the bastard lovechild of skate punk, grunge and pop melody, played with a jagged edge and finished with enjoyably rough production. It’s bedroom indie gone pro, an outbreak of fisticuffs between Pixies and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs while Kasabian and Circle Jerks play on the sound system in the background. It’s a compelling but familiar listen that exceeds the sum of its influences.
The effect is no more apparent than when The Bots hit their mid-album A-game, starting with the grungy textures and lurking piano melodies of ‘Won’, bleeding into the savage Savages-evoking storytelling of ‘All I Really Want’, finishing with the ghostly strut and fuzzy drawl of ‘Wet Blanket’. In 11 minutes, The Bots take the listener across the breadth of their sound. It’s a schizophrenic display, anchored with confident, weighty rhythms and pop hooks.
Outside of this mid-album trident of scuzzy tunes the quality is a little patchier. ‘Bad Friends’ is bland and ‘Silhouettes’ feels like the poor relation to ‘Plastic Jacket’ from the band’s ‘Sincerely Sorry’ EP. At least there’s ‘Side Effects’, the closing bracket to this city-scuffed equation. The track provides a final, shimmering peak to send ‘Pink Palms’ off in a drone of uplifting post-grunge. It’s a welcome period of respite, the duo’s usual hard edges put into soft focus.
‘Pink Palms’ is a statement of a debut. Its urbane urban landscapes and blistering production will leave not just a fuzzy ringing in your ears, but a tune in your head. Bigger bands have come out of the blocks with less and gone on to great things. As a foundation for building their own city of decay, The Bots could wish for no better.
Written by Grant Bailey (@GrantDBailey)