Valencia – Dancing With A Ghost

By paul

Valencia started off life as a melodic pop punk band with the balance more on the punk than the pop. ‘Que Sera Sera’ and ‘The Space Between’ off that first record are two brilliant pop-punk anthems that I’ve played and played and played over the years. But, as with many other bands in the genre, as the albums have been churned out, bands have mellowed, dropped some of the pace and urgency and written ‘melodic rock’ albums, probably written with mainstream success in mind. Valencia‘s last record, ‘We All Need A Reason To Believe’, flirted with major labels and the opportunity to knock on new, bigger, doors. It didn’t work. Back with I Surrender Valencia have now written and recorded an album that removes almost all of the urgency and power that made them stick out in the first place. It doesn’t make them a bad band, nor is this a bad record, but it leaves me feeling we have another Cartel or Over It on our hands – a band losing their identity in the search for something different.

The great songs on ‘Dancing With A Ghost’ are genuinely great. ‘Losing Sleep‘ is one of the best tracks they’ve ever written with Shane’s vocal performance arguably the best he’s ever given. It’s brutally raw and heart-on-the-sleeve stuff and it’s a shame because it’s one of the only really passionate songs on the record. Even though I’ll openly admit to preferring this band when they’re faster and more aggressive, it’s a great song that builds up into this huge crescendo and chorus. The title track and lead single has a lovely little swagger which will have you singing along in no time, while ‘Friday Night’ kind of sounds a bit theatrical yet still works. It sounds a little like modern day Green Day actually.

The problem is the indifferent songs – they’re really not that great at all. There’s experimentation with instruments and sounds and the pace varies quite a bit. I don’t think the slower songs do the band justice and while some do work well (as mentioned above), others just tend to plod a bit. I’ve levelled this criticism before at bands like Cartel: bands that clearly are super talented and can write great songs, yet for some reason seem to persist on trying to re-write their own style and the search for something different means they put out so-so albums. ‘Dancing With A Ghost’ is spoiled by tracks like ‘Somewhere I Belong’ which has female dual vocals and some heavy use of orchestral instrumentation and electronica. It just doesn’t work, for me anyway.

Shane’s own solo project, Promise of Redemption, allowed him to use music to overcome personal tragedy and it was emotional, raw and powerful. This record seems to be the bridge between the Valencia of old and that solo record. ‘Dancing With A Ghost’ would almost be better as two separate EPs rather than one album. I think as an entire piece of work the record suffers from stop-start pace and that disrupts the flow. There are some very good songs here – arguably a couple of great tracks – but those are counter-balanced by others which totally miss the spot. It’s a new direction that will gain the band some fans and probably lose some too. Kudos for trying to do something different, but I just feel that search has led them into the same trap as many other bands before them.

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