Luxury and Riot: A review of the debut CD by Palisades

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by Bianca Spriggs
(photo by Amanda Ralston)

In a contemporary music industry that thrives on slight-of-hand more than substance, buy a typical album and you might end up with a few favorite tunes, but for the most part, the rest feels like too-little filling in your jelly doughnut. Thus, it’s refreshing to come across something like Luxury and Riot, the debut EP from Lexington-based band, Palisades. In five songs, this three-piece achieves what many bands struggle to do in thirteen: compel listeners to press the “loop” button whether they’re washing dishes or on the open road.

A palisade is a steel or wooden fence or wall primarily used for defensive purposes. You might have seen one in your favorite period film surrounding a quaint village compound or securing the perimeter of a castle. In discussing the album with Scott Whiddon, who holds down guitar and vocals, he describes how integral the definition of palisade is to the core of the band’s sound, “When I moved here in 2006, I fell in love with that word — in part because of the Kentucky Palisades just south of here. What a beautiful place, but rugged, too. In a sense, the word seems to connote a DIY sensibility — making the best with what you have. And I kinda think the record — and our whole ethos — is about that.”

And in the spirit of DIY, Luxury and Riot channels a strong sense of community, recorded in Lexington with the contributions of Chris Dennison, Emily Hagihara, Robby Cosenza, and Duane Lundy. Whiddon wanted to involve Lundy’s Shangri La Studios in their recording process from early on, “If it’s a good Lexington record, chances are it was recorded there.” In addition to a download available for $5 at: http://palisades.bandcamp.com/album/luxury-and-riot, the physical CD sleeve was designed and hand-printed by friend, Christopher Jackson, and then assembled by the band members who wanted a homegrown feel.

Formed in January of last year by musicians who were familiar with one another from their work with other bands around town, the members also include Neil Bell on drums and Jason Matuskiewicz on bass and vocals. According to Whiddon, the combination of natural chemistry and streamlined vision played a vital role in creating a unified sound, “We knew that we wanted to hit the ground running — and we knew certain bands that we wanted to do shows with here in Lexington. Speaking just for myself here, I think that some folks take this place for granted: there is a lot of amazing music in this town.”

And Palisades is no different. Somewhere between the groundswell energy of the music and lyrics that are at once intimate and meditative but also worldly wise, the songs charge ahead, each with its own personality staking a claim on the EP. Whiddon feels that the subjects of each song should feel relatable to audiences, “”Radio Noise” draws from the experience of being in love with pop music and growing up in a small town that seemed so far removed from the music I loved (and had to find out about second-hand). “What Will Survive of Us” was based out of a journal entry after the funeral of a dear friend. These are fairly commonplace experiences, I think — so, maybe people will see a bit of themselves in the thing we’ve made.”

So, if a palisade is a kind of “natural defense,” in listening to Luxury and Riot, one might imagine being fortified against whatever silver-tongued slicker is saturating mainstream airwaves at the moment. And according to Whiddon, Palisades is at its core, comprised of three guys who carry an unmistakable torch for their craft, whose influences are steeped in punk rock and American indie rock, branching off into R.E.M, Elvis Costello and Big Star, “We’re a three-piece: all the gears are exposed, and there’s no real place to hide.”

If you want to get the live, high-energy Palisades experience, expect to see them on Friday, May 20th at The Green Lantern along with, Oh My Me and Nativity Singers, all to the tune of $5. Show starts at 10. Palisades will also open for These United States and Onward Pilgrim at Cosmic Charlies’ on Sunday, May 29. Early show: doors at 8, show at 9. $10 gets you in.



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