Gin Palace - Kicking On
A Gin Palace, of course, was a London institution of old. A place where the poor, desperate and destitute urbanites could purchase a few hours of oblivion for in cheap and plentiful quantities - A Weatherspoons of the Victorian Era, if you will. Now, there's nothing cheap nor plentiful about Gin Palace. Their first EP clocked it at a mere 11 minutes but this, their first long player proper manages a more epic 25 minutes and contains enough moments of joy to ensure that it's a 25 minutes that passes by most pleasantly.
Fittingly, first song that erupts from the speakers, 'Kicking On'', is an ode to the pleasures that are occasionally available through excessive alcohol consumption. It sets out their stall quite nicely, for it's a blast; delicate chord structures constructed with explosive chords and a driving, tense feel. For a band with no bass, they manage to fill the bottom end quite magnificently, thanks to Jon Free's technique, which seems to combine thrashing the bottom E string to fill the gaps, then topping it off with some superb tremolo skills. It's been an unfashionable thing of late, but it’s great that more and more bands are discovering the pleasure that extreme chord mangling can give and few bands are more competent at this than Gin Palace.
Of course, the music is a mere part of the formula and this album would be nothing without the presence of Meaghan Wilkie on vocals. She can hold a note as opposed to squawking like an parrot in an acid bath like certain other bands we could mention but won't. She possesses a warm, rich, utterly characteristic roar of such velvety warmth that you could curl up and go to sleep in it. You need look no further than something like her delivery on the title track or the banshee like, slightly chilling, delivery of the word 'See' on the song of the same title for proof of her prowess.
If there's a criticism to be made of 'Gin Palace' its that their crashing technique is a little one-dimensional. However, this has done the White Stripes no harm and, if you can imagine them with a smattering of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's sprinkled throughout, you've a fair idea of what your letting yourself in for. But, and it's a big but, Gin Palace have a sort of putridness about them that's all their very own. There's something sick and unpleasant in their output - something like 'The Count', with it's distorted vocals and overdriven to the point of white noise wheezing guitar sounds like hell on earth. And then there's the pure blues riffing of 'I Like It' with its wailing harmonica and wild sense of yearning.
'Gin Palace' offer little new, but this is a solid, exciting album. There's not a weak track and it's all toweringly good stuff. Give them a try, and if you're looking for a bit of rock that offers something a little decadent and twisted then a taste of Gin Palace could be just the tonic.