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Alex Valentine - Local History


Review: Jack Foley

ALEX Valentine is another of those talented and emotive singer-songwriters who seem to specialise in anxiety-ridden pieces.

His debut album, Local History, is rooted in the belief that everyone is flawed and every situation ends badly, yet it neatly sidesteps the risk of being too downbeat instrumentally.

Hence, when Alex utters lyrics such as 'I believe we're all wasters or freaks, all of us the same, yet each of us unique', there is usually a sweeping strings section, or shimmering guitar chord to accompany the sentiment.

His PR likens him to The Verve, yet vocally he is softer and less distinctive than Richard Ashcroft.

That's not to detract from the quality of the songs, however, for most contain a stark beauty that marks Valentine out as a talent to watch for the future.

The album, as a whole, encompasses the themes of loneliness, drug abuse, gambling, truck-stop diner romances and relationship post-mortems.

"Most of the songs are about some sort of carnage," observes Valentine, somewhat candidly.

Opening track, Spinning Wheel, for instance, was inspired by his own gambling past and chronicles a time when the singer had lost his winning streak.

Yet far from being too depressed, the upbeat rhythms and musical arrangements give rise to an uplifting single that boasts a terrific chorus in a style reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and that type of songwriter.

Sunshine kicks off with the telling line 'waiting for the blue sky to come again', thereby immediately obliterating any hope of a feelgood anthem.

But it retains its upbeat musical style and contains some really strong melodies.

Relationships come under the spotlight in The One You Want, which features more personal reflections and a rather pessimistic outlook. It feels sadder than most yet still manages to keep you listening.

While Good Enough To Eat finds Valentine at his most blackly humorous, recalling the story of a personal acquaintance 'or serial monogamist who goes through men like most people go through newspapers'.

The lively style is continued in tracks like Struck Dumb and Wasters and Freaks which contrast nicely with the more serene moments, as represented by Lovelost Letter Home and Did I Try Too Hard? (which occasionally veers vocally into Bryan Ferry territory).

With Local History, Valentine courts the suspicion that he could become a depressive prone to pretentious songwriting only to continually avoid such pitfalls to deliver an album that's reflective, thought-provoking and, for the most part, well worth seeking out.

 

 

Track listing:
1. Spinning Wheel
2. Sunshine
3. One You Want
4. Good Enough To Eat
5. Sleep
6. Truckstop Diner
7. Struck Dumb
8. Lovelost Letter Home
9. Weed And Whisky
10. Did I Try Too Hard
11. Colour Of My Mood
12. Wasters And Freaks

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