Century Palm with Vallens at The Monarch Tavern

Photo by Matt Forsythe (2016).

Exciting times for Toronto’s Century Palm.  Much talked about in indie circles, the crew led by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Payne treated an enthusiastic audience to a preview of the songs that make up their sophomore album, Meet You. A fitting homage to the cerebral art rock of the eighties, Century Palm cherry-picked that era’s brightest moments, ignoring the schmaltz that has come to represent the MTV generation.

An easy target might be Joy Division, but the quartet–rounded out by scene vets Paul Lawton (bass), Jesse Locke (drums) and Penny Clark (keyboards)—aren’t content to hide behind overgrown bangs.  Their drone is supplanted by enough hummable melody to make Molly Ringwald come out of her shell. Think more New Order fronted by Ian Curtis (makes sense if you think about it.)

As the album is only officially out on March 10, many weren’t overly acquainted with the new material outside of the previously-released single, King of John St. Wryly describing their new album as “old news,” the obviously motivated band played a few tracks not included on Meet You with a kind of jet-fueled forward momentum that eased the crowd’s unfamiliarity with a knowing grin.

Bassist Lawton played gracious host, offering his thanks to openers, Vallens, “the best band in Canada right now.” Masters of pedal driven acrobatics, they keep things atmospheric without being overly snoozy (or shoe-zy, if you like.) Hard to pin down, their chorus-friendly sounds invoke UK bands like Lush, while their noisey breakdowns are more akin to Sister-era Sonic Youth. Vocalist/Guitarist Robyn Phillips has that rare-quality voice that sticks in your head, like the early works of Sinead O’Connor.

The Monarch Tavern proved a suitable venue for these two Toronto stalwarts. A scene that has experienced significant loss of beloved spaces needs others to step up and fill the void for up-and-coming bands. However, its seems inevitable that both may soon outgrow these smaller stages so those smiling faces in last night’s crowd should count themselves lucky to have caught them in such a welcoming setting.

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