Chad Valley – Young Hunger

Albums / Words

22 Nov 12

Chad Valley’s Young Hunger is alive with sprightly pop which beats like a teenage heart.

This debut has been marginalised as an 80s throwback from much of the music press; the continually cushty thuds and high pitched reverb ridden vocals argue little against this case; but there’s more to young Hunger, often revealed via grown up and progressive syncopated undercurrents telling of new age consideration for quality production. There’s real care here, accessible via rampant textures spread all over.

An ode to musicality, Hugo Manuel (the Chad behind Valley) duets with some extremely trendy artists at the receiving end of much acclaim this Autumn: El Perro Del Mar, whos fourth LP Pale Fire is an absurdist brilliance; Glasser, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs all crop up at points.

Another collab, ‘My Girl’, feat. Fixers’ Jack Goldstein, charmingly re-works Spice Girls lyrics, decorating one of the most commercially pleasing melodies available; which says a lot from an album which will appeal to teens and mum’s without judgement.

Sarab Assbring’s (EPDM) ‘Evening Surrender’ is a typically stunning picture of interpersonal romance; El Perro’s vocals the 1980s rip-tide equivalent of a lovestruck emoticon.

It’s not all this glossy. There’s some meek stuff hidden past Young Hunger‘s midway point. ‘Up & Down’ and TEED-infused ‘My Life Is Complete’ lack such transferrable passion. They’re the under-prepped potatoes amongst a bloody good roast.

Ones expectations are easily lowered post-meat-and-gravy, and duly by ‘Interlude’, those aforementioned potatoes begin to appear in sight.

Feast at the weekend, but be proficient: make your excuses and leave before you’re dragged into preparing dessert; which’ll be around thirty minutes in. There’s little new to gain after this point.

The much-anticipated Young Hunger presents Chad Valley fans with a sound that has strayed from the chillwave path to venture into the nostalgic territory of 80’s Balearic pop. In an interview with Middle Boop Mag earlier this year, Hugo Manuel (Chad Valley is the Jonquil front man’s solo pseudonym) cited his love of straightforward pop and said that, although he doesn’t purposefully strive for any particular sound, he does have a penchant for “using synths and sampling 80’s pop.”

Manuel’s blend of 80’s drenched electro certainly compliments his languid, melodic vocals, notably on tracks such as “Tell All Your Friends” and “Evening Surrender” where his crooning could give George Michael a run for his money.

Standout track, “My Girl” (featuring Jack Goldstein) is a delicious slice of sunny-synth infused pop, in which Manuel playfully recycles Spice Girls lyrics. While on “Mothering Fathering” he weaves Anne Lise Frokedal’s delicate vocals around a charming chillwave instrumental, complete with glockenspiel.

Yet, despite a strong aesthetic, and an impressive list of collaborators, including Sarah Assbring, Orlando Higginbottom and fellow chillwaver George Lewis Jr., Young Hunger is lacking. While the tracks are well produced and impressively polished on a musical level, they tend to wash over the listener and fade into the background, without drawing them in. Simply put, Young Hunger has the depth of well-made elevator musak.

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Oh Chad Valley what went wrong? Gone is the promise and excitement of the ‘Equatorial Ultravox’ EP and is instead replaced with the bland electro pop musings of ‘Young Hunger’. Like a greasy anaconda, it’s hard to hold onto any of this music. It slithers away in a hazy blur and each song is forgotten by the time you are a couple of tracks on.

With such high hopes for this album I may be being slightly too harsh. The music is fun at times, with upbeat melodies, nice synth lines and accessible lyrics/vocals, with ‘My Girl’ being a perfect example of this.

I know some are already giving Chillwave its last rites, preparing its passage to the music graveyard. I however think it is a genre that could always be interesting and exciting if done well, but it can also be equally very dull if it goes wrong.

This album isn’t particularly bad, as I have said before, but there is just nothing to really get into. It feels quite vapid and lacklustre, and I fear won’t live long in the memory. I still have high hopes for Chad Valley however and though this may be a miss on my musical battleship board, I don’t feel he is sunk and will not condemn him to those murky plastic depths just yet.