Ed Vallance – Volcano
aaamusic | On 09, Apr 2012
Ed Vallance’s Volcano has a nice gloss to it. It feels like a record that’s been gone over with a nice helping of Mr Sheen – the sort of stuff that’ll make your average Coldplay hater want to wretch. Personally, I’m more indifferent to it.
He’s clearly a capable song-writer and a lot of effort has gone into giving the record a varied and vivid sound. However, musically it lacks originality – the harmonies, melodies and instrumentation are all highly competent, but don’t have that magic touch and imagination to produce something new and exciting. Consequently, the result is a series of songs that make for effective ‘indie’ pop, much better than a lot of your average chart fodder, but undeniably bland.
Take opening track Crystalline. The familiar mix of sentiment, slightly quirky synths, Thom Yorke influenced static vocals and a couple of nice chord sequences, all put together to create a very safe but polished pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Take That record. Next up is Seabird (notice the clichéd picturesque titles) which sounds like something off of A Rush of Blood to the Head, right down to the oscillating guitar riffs, evocative synths and dreamy harmonies. The vocals are pure Chris Martin, although to be fair, nowhere near as whiny and irritating.
Black and White Light and Cowboys and Indians are about as close as the record comes to edge, thanks to some mildly darker harmonies. The songs show off Vallance’s skill as a vocalist – he has a fine melodic delivery and a distinctive voice that has that very trendy ‘fragile’ quality that is so prevalent amongst 21st Century ‘sensitive’ male musicians. Title track Volcano seems to be aiming for some sort of David Bowie zeitgeist, but misses the mark quite badly and soon sinks back into the more pop-orientated style of the rest of the album. I sense Vallance is more comfortable in this territory and indeed, he stays there for South Circular and Dear Misfortune, both of which are fairly uninspired but reliable filler.
Into the Forest Fire is slightly more unusual, and actually the most enjoyable moment of the album, thanks to some very welcome dissonance, bluesy inflexions, hints of psychedelia and a driving rhythmic beat. I also like the distinctive combination of synths and guitars, which at last is more in keeping with the actual content of the song. Perhaps if he can develop this side of his style and produce further songs that are more original in this manner, Vallance will be able to break free of the confines of overly polished, supposedly indie-pop. Final two tracks Bookish and Famous Last Words are both in this vein and sound all the more predictable as a result of following on from the pleasing originality of Into the Forest Fire.
Some people will love this album, and some will absolutely loath it. Personally, I don’t think it warrants either such an extreme reaction. There is some competent song-writing and production on display, but as a whole, the music is all so familiar and repetitive that by the end of the record I’m just a bit bored. The one real moment of relief is Into the Forest Fire, and I hope Vallance produces more distinctive tracks like this one during his future endeavours.