For many of us, quarantine has been a time of self-discovery. Some have even been lucky enough to have found new life passions, such as painting, exercising, cooking, etc. I have not been as productive, however, my time in quarantine is not over and so I still have time to practice more ‘useful’ tools. What I have been able to accomplish though, is giving artists that I have once written off as “wtf is this sh*t” another listen, and some have successfully swayed my opinion.
A band in particular that has recently convinced me to consider otherwise is the Canadian trio, or rather, Canadian-born trio, Palaye Royale. The three men, Remington Leith (lead vocals), Sebastian Danzig (guitar, keyboards), and Emerson Barrett (drums, piano), are a group of brothers who are said to be born in Toronto, Canada and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. The band was established in 2008 under the title of “Kropp Circle”, which is a clever play on their family name Kropp. In 2011, the band renamed themselves to Palaye Royale to pay their respects to their grandparents who had met at the Toronto dance hall Palais Royale.
So how did this band fall in my lap nearly a decade later? Why is that I’ve decided to talk about them now?
I wish I could say its because I am great at pushing past my internal biases and woke up one day and decided to listen to their most recent album The Bastards (2020). Unfortunately, that is not the case. If it was not for my dearest friend Kensie that had talked this album up immensely, I don’t think I would have given this group a second look.
What was my first interaction with this band, you may ask? Well, back in August of 2019, I had the utmost pleasure of attending the co-headlining Marilyn Manson & Rob Zombie tour “Twins of Evil”. Accompanied by the 90s legends were the Canadians themselves, Palaye Royale.
To cut to the chase, I didn’t enjoy what I saw. Albeit, part of me understands that opening up for two of the most iconic 90s ~mall goth~ rock legends, when you as a musician(s) take massive inspiration from that scene, can be intimidating. Yet, the other part of me is like, that is your job, and the show I attended was not the first night on tour, therefore it’s hard to cut a lot of slack for their poor performance. Their set felt like 30 minutes of the same song, their performing abilities did not successfully reach the packed arena of 16,000 people, and again, I had to keep asking my friends if it was the same song being played because everything felt so repetitive.
If it had not been for the fact that I was stood in ‘front of the house’ section and that I was able to peak over at the setlist and watch them change the lights with the songs, you would have been able to persuade me that they played one song for their entire set.
Lack of change in melodies aside, my first visual impression of them did not evoke any special thoughts or emotions either. As someone that is over the age of 20, sitting nicely on the edge of mid-twenties range… the ‘hot topic goth’ gimmick is not edgy or new for me. I was raised on Fall Out Boy, My Chem, BVB, HIM, etc, thus the “Vampyr” aesthetic that Palaye Royale dawn is not something that I immediately “fangirl” over, in fact, I think of it to be a boring gimmick.
Therefore, with all of these initial impressions combined, I had [immaturely] written off the band completely and boxed them as “great for kids that did not get to experience the mall goth era of the late 90s/early 2000s“, which still holds some truth for me. HOWEVER, I do not believe the album The Bastards (2020) should be ignored.
The Bastards (2020) is the band’s third studio LP, that follows Boom Boom Room [Side A] (2016) and Boom Boom Room [Side B] (2018). Although I don’t formally remember the first two albums, I do remember that the records followed the vapidness of their aesthetic. I know that is quite a harsh and judgemental statement, but that is genuinely just the feelings I got from them.
(so, sue me?)
Nevertheless, we are here for a reason. A good reason if you are a Palaye Royale fan. I sincerely enjoyed the latest album, like a lot. This 16 track album is 46 minutes of musical and personal growth of the three brothers. The foundation of their”Glam Rock” origins stands strong, thematically however, thankfully, shifted from vanity to honest tales of men in their mid-to late-twenties with newfound fame.
The Bastards (2020) unveils the truth of the common Hollywood struggles, such as dishonest relationships and easy access to life-ruining drugs.
Truthfully, there is nothing wrong with fun music that does not cause an emotional uprising within you whenever you listen to it. But, if the band/artist claims that they’ve picked up the torch of ‘hot topic emo’ band, the music needs to elicit emotions beyond ‘wow they’re hot dudes’.
OR ELSE YOU’RE NOT EMO.
I know die-hard fans of Palaye Royale will yell at me and say that they’ve always had “deep” lyrics, and the honesty in their music has always been there. I acknowledge this, to an extent, as I’ve gone back and re-read some of the lyrics from their first two albums, and yes, there has always been a level of emotion amongst the music. Yet, there’s something undeniably different (in a good way) about The Bastards (2020).
The first two records give a more timid impression, which is fair, when a band or an artist is new in the scene, most tend to be unsure if they want to swing the ‘appealing boyband’ or the ‘dirty rockstar’ way. Many feel as though they have to choose a niche in order to engage with a more dedicated group of individuals, which is evidently how Palaye Royale must have felt early in their career.
To me, this indecisiveness pooled into the creative process of their earlier albums, thus creating two lacklustre records that have fallen in the more ‘average’ to ‘below average’ categories (in my humble opinion).
The Bastards (2020), however, shows growth and confidence amongst three Anne-Rice-inspired brothers. The album opens with “Little Bastards” a gritty, yet anthemic, song about the overall themes that will follow throughout the next 40 or so minutes: drugs, loneliness, mental illness and self-discovery.
After those first 3 minutes and 38 seconds, the album rolls into a loud coming of age feeling. For example, the second track “Massacre, The New American Dream” is a political cry on the current state of Tr*mp Amerikkka.
This approach to songwriting might seem like a given, considering the period we’re living in, and it’s almost expected that if you’re not a republican… You’re writing a ‘wtf is happening?’ song. Nonetheless, I feel like it’s worth highlighting that this band went from singing:
“I fell in love with my best friend /she fell in love with you instead / cause she’s a teenage heartbreak queen”
“How’s this for the American dream?/ feed pills to society / give you a gun, now there’s a killing spree / I’ve given up on America’s racist agenda/ I’m f*cked up from prescriptions and antidepressants”
That is GROWTH. That is understanding your platform. THIS is what I like to see from millennial musicians. Be honest with your experience in these f*cked up times. It’s not a sign of weakness to be angry and upset about such horrifying events of this generation.
Moreover, the third track, “Anxiety”, discusses the harsh reality of living in a single-mother home due to abandonment by their father. Using lyrics like “Children crying, mothers scream, fathers drink” and “Raised to be f*cking mean“, the song does not hold back on the tragedies the three brothers experienced growing up. Instrumentally, the song carries elements of industrial rock, along with a lot of reverb, that gives this ‘yelling in the street with a microphone’ rawness.
There isn’t a single song on this record that doesn’t emit these sort of abrasive emotions. The entirety of The Bastards (2020) openly discusses the subjects of self-destruction, pain and trauma, all the while making it a fun rock music listening experience.
Taking such dark subjects, and somehow making it not overwhelmingly sad and boring is honestly not an easy task. Yet, Palaye Royale managed to make this record a true coming of age feeling, as with every honest ‘breakdown’ there’s a breakthrough feeling intertwined with them.
The tracks on this album carry a narrative of “yes, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, we’ve been driven by anger, hatred, etc” and “but that’s not us anymore”, that I find really inspiring and uplifting.
Furthemore, this album also has some straight up ‘bops’. For example, tracks 6 (Hang on To Yourself) and 7 ( F*cking With My Head) is a lot dancier in terms of the earlier songs, all the while still using the same subjects of bad relationships and drug abuse.
Which, honestly, is true to the ’emo’ genre. Don’t we all love a good dance party to songs about self-destruction?
Thematics aside, this album is also a lot better mixed than the first two albums. One of the main reasons I found the first two albums to be so easily ignored is because the mixing of them sounds so muddled, thus just making an unpleasant listening experience. I am aware that, obviously, there was a budget change from 2016 to last year, and normally that’s easy to ignore, but with bands like Palaye Royale... it makes a big difference.
I mean, it’s called Glam Rock for a reason. Can’t be done on a budget.
Conclusively, the biggest ‘pros’ of this record is that this album is a significant representation of the bands growth as both musicians ands individuals. The songs are overall tight, well-produced and melodic, and it’s a very pleasant listening experience.
If it were up to me, I’d scrap the first two albums, bury them somewhere and use this as an introduction to the group because The Bastards (2020) makes me want to get to know the band and hear more.
Which, ultimately, is the goal for bands like Palaye Royale.
Favourite Tracks: Little Bastards, Tonight Is the Night I Die, Masochist & Reedemer
Least Favourite Tracks: Black Sheep, Stay & Hang On To Yourself
Until next time Interwebs! 🕸
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