Review Summary: An aesthetically pleasing effort that utterly fails to satisfy on an emotional level.
Before the bitchy part of my assessment begins, I do feel that I should give credit where credit is due and point out the most glaringly obvious strength of the self-titled debut from Isis/Deftones supergroup Palms. Whatever other weaknesses this effort may possess, it is, more than anything else, an aesthetically pleasing album. It takes the beautifully spacey production of Isis' later material and combines it with the dreamier, meticulously polished sheen of softer Deftones tracks to create some incredibly atmospheric music that can best be described as, well... Sexy. For all its flaws - and believe me, they are numerous - Palms
is potentially the sexiest album of the year in terms of atmosphere and production. Chino Moreno's soaring vocals suit this vibe perfectly, and if this effort could be judged by these factors alone it would absolutely be a roaring success, surpassing all hopes and expectations set when Chino's pairing with sixty percent of Isis was first announced. It's especially nice to hear bassist Jeff Caxide again, his gorgeous lines elevating even the most mundane of passages to something greater.
However, once you get past just how damn good Palms
sounds in certain aspects, you are left to scrutinize not its aesthetic value, but how well it works as a piece of music - and not only that, but a piece of music crafted by four musicians with a consistent history of creating some absolutely brilliant compositions. When one observes Palms' debut LP in that respect, it fails in a staggering way, for no matter how good an album sounds, you are always left with a few simple questions: Does it connect on an emotional level? Does it do anything new? Does it sound like the artists behind it really put their all into making it? Certainly, these three questions are not the only ways to judge a work of art, but if a band gets even one of them right then you can be sure that, in some ways, their work is a musical success. Sadly, in this reviewer's humble opinion, Palms
fails on all three fronts. It may sound
incredible, but it fails to connect emotionally, it doesn't do a lot that we haven't heard before, and - most importantly - it is utterly devoid of passion. The greatest works from Isis and Deftones were made as powerful as they were by the obvious passion the creators had for their music and by the immediate emotional hold they had over listeners. However, instead of the heart-on-sleeve anguish of Deftones or the massive, cathartic climaxes of Isis, the music of Palms is relegated to sterile, uninteresting post-rock that does not progress in any significant direction, does not evoke any feeling in its listener, and does not even remotely hint at any passion that Moreno, Caxide, Harris, and Meyer may have had for their art. The entire effort sounds phoned in: created for the purpose of merely releasing music rather than to convey the sentiments of the musicians in the form of music. The sad thing here, beside the squandering of a huge amount of proven musical talent, is that Palms actually have a memorable sound going here, differentiating itself substantially from the styles of its creators' main projects and crafting a really magnificent atmosphere, but all the talent and thought put into this aesthetically beautiful project will be for naught until its progenitors decide that they actually want
to make this kind of music. In the meantime, we are left with four brilliant musicians creating music that lacks the passion and involvement of even their weakest previous works.