Unlock the Valves of Feeling

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Like "Ultraviolet," Deardarkhead's first full album was recorded at the studio owned and engineered by two members of fellow U.K. musical appreciators Suddenly Tammy!, and manages the great trick of appealing to two distinct if often overlapping crowds of Anglophiles. There's definitely some feedback flow that fans of the shoegazer explosion will appreciate while, thanks in part to Amper's fragile vocals, anyone taken with the work of bands like Felt or the Field Mice will find something to love here. There's a definite Pale Saints influence as a result, since such a similar combination was that band's raison d'ĂȘtre (and indeed, former lead singer Ian Masters is thanked for creating the album title), while Harrington's lead guitar work contains more than a few hints of the Cure's own narcotic pop/rock rush. Weiss' drum work is fine, perhaps skittering along at points where it sounds it like should be hitting big, but his restraint is just the thing more than once. Consider the fantastic instrumental sections on "Stained," as he provides the rushed rhythms to carry things along while Harrington's lovely soloing shoots for the stars with just enough melancholy to boot. Lyrically, there's nothing too distinct to write home about -- obsessed romance seems to be the key -- but time to time Amper sounds like and suggests what might happen if Depeche Mode's Martin Gore had an alternate musical career a decade after he first started. Unlock the Valves has a suitably breathless pace to it, not always going full speed but never drowsily blissing out, while collectively the band members are adept at changing moods within songs. That there's an instrumental track called "Echo" is almost to be expected -- both in terms of what it sounds like and who the band listens to! -- but the results stand entertainingly well on their own.

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