Toronto’s Century Palm could have only been born in a blistering Canadian winter. Dark, taut, icy and slick, their debut album Meet You is a crash course in post-punk—there’s some Krautrock influence, like the Neue Deutsche Welle bands, plus hints of goth. They adopt the angular guitars of Wire and The Fall, the deep emotionality of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division, and even the pop sensibility of Devo and The B-52’s, while maintaining a distinct identity of their own. Simply put, Century Palm have crafted an irony-free study of ’80s independent rock that is simultaneously fresh and immediately nostalgic.
After a few opening tracks set the shadowy stage, Meet You starts to take shape with “Then You’re Gone,” a breakneck tune that frenetically builds upon itself thanks to a rhythm section as tight as piano wire, spiraling upwards and falling back down again with expert precision. A manic keyboard line is scribbled over the top, giving the track an even more frantic and rattled dimension. In addition to the sound and structure of the songs themselves, frontman Andrew Payne runs the gamut of brooding punk vocal styles, perhaps unintentionally, yet charismatically, nailing many key reference points: at times he echoes Ian Curtis’ booming bass, or Howard Devoto’s blasé snarl.
“Walk Forever Blind,” another highlight, kicks off with heavy synths droning into space, until the drum beat lumbers into the mix and Payne delivers the line: “I’ll walk forever blind/ Over the hills of time/ It is the only way,” like a man who has finally discovered the meaning of life, but is too depressed to let us in on the secret. It’s not that Meet You is a direct homage to or pastiche of any of these bands; its connect-the-dots approach in such an expressive and expansive genre is part of what makes it a joy to listen to. Century Palm have clearly found their niche, and Meet You is the perfect first step towards refining their sound.