Lesbian trio Hunter Valentine hits and misses with ‘Lessons’
3 out of 5 Stars
LESSONS FROM THE LATE NIGHT
Tommy Boy Records
Crotch rock doesn’t come to mind much when a woman is at the helm — or in band Hunter Valentine’s case, three women. But the ladies rock out hard on their second full-length CD, Lessons from the Late Night, in the same cock jock vein of Kings of Leon or Nickelback. And that proves to be both a good and bad thing.
At a mere 22 minutes, the seven songs in Lessons pack a lot of wallop in a short span. Kyomi M blares her guitars and shreds her voice — and sometimes it’s the other way around. Adrienne Lloyd on bass and keyboards and drummer Laura Petracca maintain a throttled rhythm. But just a few minutes in, the formula wears thin.
"The Stalker" opens Lessons strongly with headbanging guitars and drums. They give a respectable raw garage sound against a decent melody. "Stalker" would make any mainstream rock listener feel like they are hearing something cool and "in"… if it was the ’90s. But it works fine. Even though M’s voice goes all over the place from her usual range up into scary shrieks belonging more in grindcore. Here, it hurts. The same happens in the decent second track, "Treadmills of Love."
By the time "Revenge" rolls around, the trio dives into repetition. Instead of the structure of the first two tracks, "Revenge" is an ambling mess both vocally and rhythmically. The music is hard, but it doesn’t caress you into listening. "Revenge" figures you’re already this far in, so here’s some crap. The driving beat hypnotizes you into numbness. Kinda like that feeling when you type without really looking at the words on the screen. Or is that just me, right now?
M’s voice has perfect rocking quality with swagger and enough grit, but her screeching is a problem. She seems to want to make it a signature, but her wailing is never an enjoyment. The songs aren’t serious epics; I just wish she had more fun in her delivery. There’s a lack of humor in this album and at times — she’s really just yelling at you.
There is restraint in "Scarface," which ends up just short of fantastic. Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t supposed to be charming, but Hunter Valentine pulls it off and gets into a great Go-Go’s-meets-The-Cliks groove. In the final act of the three minute, 35 second song, M kills in her ad-libs over the backing vocals.
Although the album is spotty in the lead up, Valentine ends with topnotch tunes. The well-structured "She Only Loves Me When She’s Wasted" belongs in a teen dramedy from the ’80s over a montage of character development, but that doesn’t make it less effective. Perhaps there is some cheese factor, but the lesbian tone throughout the album is captured here with precise, unadulterated potency. "Wasted" glimpses at some fascinating songwriting that may not be overly deep, but that has potential.
"A Youthful Existence" also nods to radio hair rock from the ’80s that was still hit-worthy. See Giuffria or White Lion. The band opted more for quality than rocking and screaming here and out popped a fairly great song with enough commercial appeal to attract a broad audience. Too bad we had to get through M’s crotch rocking to prove a point before hearing the best stuff.
This article appeared in the in the Dallas Voice print edition May 7, 2010.
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