Review Summary: The familiar progression of a pop-punk band.
While many stalwarts deny the continued presence of the genre, there are indeed some pop-punk bands left in existence. Not surprisingly however, many of these outfits use the old-fashioned definition of pop-punk to gain a foothold in the industry, before moving on to a more expansive sound which is likely to attract a wider audience. Worryingly, it is almost becoming predictable as to the sound these bands will wheel out from album to album. A raw debut’s rough-edged pop-punk is likely to move into a mainstream form of alternative rock on album #2, which will in turn be further fleshed out in more ambitious fashion come the third LP. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the latest band to follow such a formula; Philadelphian quintet Valencia.
While such a formula suggests monotonous disappointment, it does not necessarily have to be the case, since it all depends on what strengths a given artist brings to the table (see Anberlin for a perfect example). In the case of Valencia, these assets are competent musicianship and unpretentious lead vocalist Shane Henderson. Take (the should have been closer) ‘Still Need You Around (Lost Without You)’ for instance… An emotional ballad which contains keys, strings and a handclap beat, it would have turned into melodramatic mush in the hands of most others. Yet, it works a treat due to Henderson’s vocal and lyrical sincerity.
This genuine nature is a trait which the front-man established on predecessor ‘We All Need A Reason To Believe‘, following the tragic death of his girlfriend. Far from moping around depressingly, there is a sense of optimism permeating through the relatively standard relationship and life based themes on Valencia’s third LP ‘Dancing With A Ghost’. The cheery chorus-reliant title track opens proceedings and provides a nice bridge between releases, before follow-up ‘Spinning Out’ ends a refrain that begins “Spinning out, I think we’ve lost control” with “I know, somehow, some way, things will get better”.
While lacking the highlights of the band’s previous two releases, being a touch too short (at 36 minutes) and could have done with a little more envelope pushing, ‘Dancing With A Ghost’ may well be Valencia’s most consistent and diverse offering yet. The dark and fuzzy ‘Consider Me Dead’ closes with anguished screaming. Strings and keys add atmosphere to ‘Somewhere I Belong’. The band cut loose with galloping drums and soaring lead guitars on both the hard-hitting ‘Losing Sleep’ and rollicking closer ‘Stop Searching’. While the semi-theatrical (almost My Chemical Romance like) ‘Friday Night’ is sure to be a live favourite with it’s “I f*cked up” led chorus and closing gang vocals.
Despite this variety however, Valencia are not as distinctive as many of their peers who have released albums in 2010. For instance; 'Dancing With A Ghost' is not as memorably catchy as the new LP from The Graduate, not as progressive as Ivoryline's 'Vessels', and not as unique & original as Motion City Soundtrack's new effort. It also is an album which is not as immediate as its predecessor; a sure sign that Valencia are leaving pop-punk further behind. Nevertheless, 'Dancing With A Ghost' ultimately does not disappoint since it does have a growth factor which is reminiscent of many of Jimmy Eat World's long-players... A fact which should not surprise since production duties have passed on to long-time J.E.W helmsman; Mark Trombino.
Recommended Tracks: Friday Night, Still Need You Around (Lost Without You), Dancing With A Ghost & Somewhere I Belong.