The Valley Arena : Take Comfort in Strangers

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I don’t have problem with troublesome emotions providing the sonic foundation of an artist’s music. Rock `n’ roll, in and of itself, is all about all about venting what goes on inside of you. But when a genre becomes a cookie-cutter, shrink-wrapped sound that serves only as a trend to hike up sales, then I start to become irritated. This is why some labels play it wise and stick to a specific musical format. But, it seems like ever since the dawn of 2002 that this emo music for the Hot Topic crowd will not die.

When I took out the debut album from these Long Beach natives The Valley Arena and slid it into my stereo, I must admit that my ears were allured by the opening track “To the Bitter Amputees.” It shines with a purely transparent work ethic by showing what it takes for a band to make good, post-hardcore music with its precise melodies that blend well with the hooks. I was convinced then and there that Take Comfort in Strangers would be a fossilized gem for the year 2005. After that song was over, the album started to go down like a kamikaze pilot.

“In the Lion’s Mouth” is an exclusively trite emo song that even a lion itself would spit out, as front man Warren Woodward sings with the same loathsome grouse as Geoff Rickley of Thursday, while “Piano Wire” is a watered-down carbon copy of all the songs released on Equal Vision put together, destined for an after school special soundtrack.

Just when I was holding on to my last crumb of hope that Take Comfort in Strangers would reinforce the potential of its opening track, I was slapped in the face by the big hand of banality with “Paint it Red” and its façade of sincere wailing. Boo-hoo! The track called “Burn Off Regret” is a befittingly proper analysis of what the bands and people who the Valley Arena thank in their CD booklet, will have to do after one listen of this album.

“What We Can Steal” begins with a helping of some desolate rubbish that reaches a nice sounding peak with Chris Stevens’ spiky guitar lines before all enjoyment is crushed as the dull backing of the rest of the band sets in for the remainder of the track. The Valley Arena try too hard again on “Carneceria” which sounds like it could be an anthem for cushy suburban kids who cut themselves when they experience turmoil, and the opposite-sex-as-more-troubled-kid-babble is abound on “The Metal in your Teeth.”

“The Plastic Knife You Swing” is as painful going through your ears as broken glass would be as it goes down your throat. However, it can, at the same time, illustrate the sheer skills of drummer Mike Nielson and bassist Dave South as their rabid instrumentation exhibits a solid chemistry between the two of them that outshines the other band members. It’s just too bad it has to be on this song.

This music has all been done before and re-hashed like the material in a hotdog. I don’t aim to be a heartless bastard because I’ve had my share of problems too. But I find more constructive as well as genuine emotional vents in my music such as The Smiths and Nick Drake.

Similar Albums (you should listen to instead):
Jets to Brazil – Perfecting Loneliness
Q and Not U – No Kill No Beep Beep
Snapcase- Designs for Automotion

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