Review: Valencia – We All Need A Reason To Believe

Do you remember when pop-punk was respectable? Before Fall Out Boy blew up, and everyone with a fringe, a myspace page and an attractive lead singer was trying to get in on the act, often regardless of actual musical talent? Before it became a guilty pleasure for anyone who considered themselves to have a discerning music taste (not that I ever did)? I don’t think I do, such is the over-saturation of the genre right now. But Valencia have decided to remind us all that one day, not so long ago on a planet relatively near to our own, that was the case. Their first album was solid. It had a couple of stand out tracks (“The Space Between” and “3000 Miles”), but the rest merely did the job. With their second effort they’ve definitely upped the ante. The basics are still all here: the hooks will have you dancing, the chorus will have you singing, but it’s the quality which raises it above the standard fare. Most 21st century pop-punk focuses on the pop, creating catchy but ultimately disposable tracks. We All Need A Reason To Believe contains songs which capture the immediacy of bands like All Time Low and Forever The Sickest Kids, but have the longevity of earlier releases like Bleed American and Sticks and Stones.

The guitar work is solid. Admittedly it’s not exactly Dragonforce, but you wouldn’t want it to be. Pop-punks designed to chug rather than solo, to swell rather than shred. The same can be said for the drumming, which, while never reaching Travis Barker or Joey Jordison levels, provides perfect pacing and structure. The instruments are played well, and fit together consistently. They provide the background to the true strengths of the album which revolve around vocalist Shane Henderson. His voice is nowhere near as high-pitched as we’ve come to expect from recent releases, and is much stronger as a result. It’s a little more human, more realistic, ultimately you can sing along in key without having to go falsetto, which is a god-send for the vocal chords, as well as any housemates. Tied in with this are the lyrics. They have a depth to them which is rare, avoiding cheesy lines about being broken hearted or going to the beach, whilst still evoking the same emotions and experiences that we associate with pop-punk. The production is also well-done: shiny enough to complement, and even heighten the experience, but not so much so as to make us forget that we’re listening to an actual band rather than a computer programme.

I’ve tried to avoid a song by song breakdown, as they’re incredibly difficult and personal things to include but for the sake of balance, here goes. “Better Be Prepared”, “I Can’t See Myself”, “Where Did You Go?” and “Free” are personal favourites. “The Good Life” is also an excellent example of song-writing which remains sweet and romantic while managing to avoid becoming sappy and sentimental. Token ballads are seemingly unavoidable nowadays and We All Need A Reason To Believe is no different: “Carry On” represents Valencia at their weakest, seemingly trying to do what they should rather than what they want.

There’s nothing revolutionary about the album. In fact, if anything, the reverse is true, asWe All Need A Reason To Believe seemingly is trying to undo many of the changes to pop-punk from the past 5 or so years. Valencia are unlikely to ever become a Queen or Pink Floyd with albums that consistently created and re-invented. What they are, and what this albums represents, is an almost perfect representation of pop-punk, without all the trappings associated with the genre in the 21st century. In the end it still makes me feel like I’m driving down a sun-kissed highway with a glorious ocean on one side, when in fact I’m in a rather rainy and depressing city in England, and something has to be said for that.

Final Verdict: 9/10

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