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Vendetta Valentine
There's Nothing Safe
(self-released)


At first look, Vendetta Valentine could be hucked in the same protest rock bin that so many other failed bands have found themselves in, where most eventually realize that music with a message matters little if the music itself is unlistenable and the message as subtle as a frying pan. But a different tact has been taken here; new wave mixes with bubblegum pop, and lyrics that focus on desperate lovers in a near-future totalitarian society create visuals that flesh out a world gone wrong (that may or may not be a parable of our own). The protagonists from the songs have the desperate, lust-filled moments of reprieve while fleeing from the ever-seeing eye of an omnipotent Big Brother, occasionally going down in a hail of bullets when everything finally catches up to them. The band counts George Orwell's 1984 among their influences and one can feel the presence of a So Cal version of Winston Smith, weaving in and out of songs on his skateboard, as he fights an unsuccessful battle against authority.

And that's why this album is successful: the message isn't spelled out in the way that Jello Biafra crams his George-Bush-is-bad message down the throat of anyone who will listen. Through illustration and allegory, people will be able to ken the message without the band having to hammer their beliefs into irrelevance. By interleaving the ideas and ideals of the lyrics with lively, well-constructed music that combines indie, pop and new-wave, Vendetta Valentine have ensured that their music will be catchy and appealing. They've also avoided another pitfall known to turn potential listeners off: a message so preachy that it becomes overwhelmed with the smugness of if-you-don't-think-like-us-you're-an-idiot elitism. Most people don't like being told they're a moron for voting for so and so, or supporting one viewpoint over another, and elitist exclusionism on either side of the fence is merely another, yet far subtler, form of the tyranny depicted by O'Brien's image of "a boot stomping on a human face, forever."

Politics aside, the final leg propping up the pedestal I'm placing this band on is that every song is radio-worthy. This is no 3 Doors Down, Days Of The New, or Guano Apes, where one track is worth listening to, and the rest is overrated trash. The album starts off pretty light-hearted, and ends up more System Of A Down than B-52's by the time the final track rolls around, but the mood is more sobering than somber. It makes you think about what's under the veneer of daily life, but doesn't force you to dwell too long on it.

-JD

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Mike Doughty



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