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
"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
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
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
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
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