❉ Pieced together in lockdown, the Nashville quartet have managed to create a dense, unified and anthemic sound.
Lifeboat Candidate the new album by Nashville quartet Palm Ghosts brings the sound, influence and variety of late ‘70s/early ‘80s British Post-Punk and New Wave to today’s troubled world. Made in the USA during the 2020 quarantine Lifeboat Candidate has antecedents in Peter Gabriel’s third 1980 solo album, The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys and the early I Will Follow/11 O’clock Tick Tock-era U2 but filtered through a modern American sensibility to reflect on the worries and horrors of the modern world.
Palm Ghosts are made up of Joseph Lekkas (lead vocals), Benjamin Douglas and Jason Springman (guitars/vocals) and Walt Epting (drums). Benjamin is also the lyricist and the album was recorded during the course of 2020 – a time of pandemic, Trump politics and a bomb attack on Nashville by a supposedly paranoid 5G conspiracy theorist. The music attempts to reflect the strange mixture of foreboding and hope that characterises America and the world at this time.
Lifeboat Candidate was apparently created and pieced together in lockdown with the band sending tracks, instrumental parts and vocals back and forth to each other by email – probably a process now familiar to most bands recording an album! What they have managed to create however is a dense, unified and anthemic sound.
Album opener Blind (which has been previously released as a single) has a backbone of 1980 Peter Gabriel style drums and guitar (reminiscent of his track Intruder for example – compare and contrast!). Capturing the sense of foreboding in lyrics such as “wake me when it’s over/don’t stir me til it’s done” and commenting on a world of pessimism and inertia – the cracking anthemic chorus then answers this with lyrics such as, “I see you wanted to see my world on fire/if that’s what you need to see then you’re already Blind.”
Without seemingly taking a break the pounding drums take us straight into Easy Math, a song that seems to be about familiarity and inertia and has a bell like guitar riff. A synthesiser reminiscent of Low Life-era New Order and a U2 guitar and bass motif then introduces the (social realism?) of the next track – The Kids, one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Revelation Engines is another strong track which continues the Edge-influenced guitar motif. Lyrics such as “Fanatics in the game to win/ politics on adrenaline” paint a picture of a world hurrying towards oblivion. These songs may have been pieced together in the recording process but you can see them working well live for the unified band in the future.
Carry the World – a song seemingly about rejecting religion and a vocal that strays worryingly toward Chris Martin/Coldplay territory! – leads to the title track. In Lifeboat Candidate, Joseph Lekkas sounds remarkably like Julian Cope and the track again has resonant lyrics such as “I will the water to boil/ I love to watch it boil over.”
After the solid The Perfect Tool, a New Order-influenced synthesiser pattern leads into the cracking The Dead Inside which was also released as a single and is a strong end track for the album. It seems to be about disconnection and isolation but could also almost be a dance track offering a glimpse of a more optimistic future. You can see this album sounding great live (when that can happen!) and I believe Palm Ghosts have a lot more music coming through in the current year. Look forward to hearing more from them.
❉ Palm Ghosts: ‘Lifeboat Candidate’ released 19 March 2021 by Ice Queen Records. Click here to pre-order via Bandcamp.
❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre