Review: Chad Valley- Young Hunger

It’s never a good sign when you can comfortably get on with something else and forget that you’re listening to an album. It’s particularly blasphemous however when you’re supposed to be reviewing the damn thing. That’s not to say that there’s no merit in this fun, ambitious and occasionally great record, but it ultimately sounds like a talented young man having a go at dance pop by emulating 80’s pop music and snaring trendy guest singers, but somehow misfiring. Young Hunger tries to punch you in the face with garish synths and maximal production, but it conversely sounds like you’re listening to an empty space, forgettable fluff: pap in its purest form.

It depends what one expects from an album perhaps. The first four tracks are all solid, and would constitute a good EP. Opening track I Owe You This is a solid pop song featuring Twin Shadow and it’s clearly influenced by his music too. The album is full of guests in fact, but in the first song it merely highlights how shallow and thin Chad Valley’s music sounds compared with the dense production and sexy, urgent feel to Twin Shadow’s music. Tell All Your Friends bumbles along nicely, although the high-pitched chorus is jarring and odd. Fall 4 U feels more natural and flowing, the long outro giving the layered synth parts the chance to envelope the listener nicely, and Glasser’s beautiful voice would lift any song. The clear standout track is My Girl, an infectious syrupy pop song that could be used to soundtrack a teen trying ecstasy for the first time. Technicolour rainbow fun of the shallowest variety, a little more bass or funk or sass or exciting beats would perhaps push this track higher up the charts. The album just tails off after the strong start however, meandering along with no real force or purpose about it, like a tired old drunk stumbling home compared to the hedonistic elated teen of My Girl.

There’s something sunny, innocent and optimistic in the songs that’s quite endearing though, and a lot of people might enjoy this album to sing along with in the car, or play musical chairs with. You can hear Hugo Manuel straining towards big choruses in songs like the title track Young Hunger, but can also hear him miss the mark. You can hear him trying to emulate Duran Duran, the Human League etc, but not coming close to matching them. There is something too obvious in the Calvin Harris type synth stabs in Fathering/Mothering that vainly attempt to excite and grab the listener’s attention. This song in particular straddles an unhappy line between dance and pop music (genres that can blur to occasionally dazzling effect in songs like Rihanna’s We Found Love) without hitting the highs of either genre. This is a promising and accomplished debut album, but it lacks the songs, melodies, musicianship, charisma, or whatever other hard-to-define qualities exist that make music memorable. Silly pop is always fun, but it needs to be shored up by quality songwriting and Young Hunger sadly falls short in this department.

Words: Joe Fuller