Long Beach, CA, trio the Valley Arena seem to be on a one-band quest to retake the term "emo" away from its current "pretty boys in eyeliner and floppy haircuts" mall-punk overtones and back to the glory days of the early to mid-'90s, when a string of bands in Chicago, Louisville, and (mostly) Washington, D.C., were growing bored enough with hardcore and developing enough instrumental mastery to create a new breed of earnest but often engaging punk- and metal-influenced rock. Strong echoes of first-wave acts like Jawbox, Drive Like Jehu, and Shudder to Think reverberate through the trio's second album. Occasionally, this sense of nostalgia might cause the listener to dismiss the Valley Arena as second- or third-generation copyists, as on "Perfume Has Expired," with its excessively typey high-register guitar drone, strained vocals, and lyrics incorporating phrases from old advertising pitches in place of actual insight. But when the band really kicks in, on tracks like the atypically catchy "Keep It Discreet," which seems to bear an unexpected influence from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and the ghostly "I Was a Wrecking Ball," the Valley Arena deliver on their Dischord Records promise.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason