The Red Hot Valentines, Summer Fling (Polyvinyl)
If there’s an element of danger in The Red Hot Valentines’ Summer Fling, it’s that it might be too sweet. Sweetness is best in small doses, after all. Like the All-American Rejects and the Get Up Kids, The Red Hot Valentines play up-tempo guitar pop that’s practically become an institution for Midwestern bands. And, like those bands, TRHV walks the thin line between sweetened pop and saccharined wuss.
The vocals, shared by Jeff Johnson and Toby Kirk, are probably the biggest culprit in this dilemma. Though they never whine, they strain and usually stay in the upper register. The voices feature high in the mix and sometimes draw attention away from the guitars.
Strangely, it works for the band. The overdriven guitars in the rhythm bolster the melodies delivered by the voice and keyboard. Hooks from keys and voice slip into your memory before you know it.
The opening two songs — “Wait For Summer” and “This Heart of Mine” – deliver the breezy pop that their titles suggest. The high, sweet voice, the lyrics about “good feelings” and the hooky keyboard lines all strike the perfect feeling of nostalgia and fantasy. If the titles didn’t already suggest summer, the music would.
Only the acoustic ballad “I Want To” seems to cross the line from fun to over-indulgent. Custom-built for high school girls to develop crushes to, it’s hard to listen through the entire song. Still, TRHV sandwich the ballad between two rockers.
The melancholic yet bright “Christine” kicks off the second half of the album where the relentlessly poppy songs develop more dimensions. “All You Get” swoops and soars like no other song on the album. “One Last Kiss” closes the record with a final charging pop tune.
The strong finish gives great indication that The Red Hot Valentines may become more than a guilty pleasure for fans of pop hooks and loud guitars.