The Valentine Tapes

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The Valentine Tapes Review

by Ned Raggett

The understated but nonetheless triumphant surge of "Tiny Seismic Night" that starts Sharkboy's second album shows the group again solidly in charge of its own particular low-key hybrid, dramatic without being overstated. With an unchanged lineup and Phil Wright once again handling production (with engineering from Jem Noble this time out), Sharkboy doesn't change much from Matinee on The Valentine Tapes beyond a certain expansion of scope -- the songs sound a touch more up-front this time out, the overall mix a bit fuller. It might be a conceit to say that everything sounds a bit more cinematic, but the blend of country, blues, post-punk textures, and other touches has great potential as a soundtrack for something, somewhere ("Teenage Heart" would make for a great end-of-movie song alone). Where there are differences it's to look back to look forward -- "Same Mother of Pearl" is a bit of roadhouse rockabilly/surf that doesn't so much re-create as recast the elements for Avy's once again sly and sharp voice (with a bit of reverb, of course). "Sugarmanshine" has a similarly easygoing kick and bluesy bite, while "Dean" has the same kind of confessional vibe and textured approach that could make it a good song for both Nancy Sinatra (via Lee Hazlewood) and Dolly Parton. The group's ability to find and maintain an air of controlled but never absent theatrics to great effect can be readily heard in the rising snarl of "Blazer" -- like the first album's "Forest Fire," a pyrotechnic metaphor used to sharp effect -- and in how "3D Angelshell" turns into a stretched-out, trippy conclusion rising off into the stratosphere, guitars and vocals blended into an elegantly rough swirl.

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