Kickin Valentina – ‘Imaginary Creatures’ (Mighty Music) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 04:00

imgcreaturesalbum1I first came across the name Kickin Valentina a few years back when I got a friend request on the good old Bakebook app thing from a guy called Jimmy Berdine. Now, given the vagaries of the world of social media, I was naturally wary of accepting a request from someone who, to me, at the time, was a complete stranger: so, obviously I did a bit of checking… It turned out he was a friend of a friend from ‘way back in the day, when I used to live in a little hick town on the outskirts of this dirty ol’ town of Belfast. And he was a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band: now, given that the majority of my social media contacts work, in shape or form, in the music business, and this game is all about networking, I reckoned “what the hey” and accepted. Subsequently he sent me a copy of his band’s album to review: but the website I was writing for at the time reckoned it was “too light” for their taste and refused to publish my musings… Ah well, shit happens, doesn’t it?

 

Scroll forward a few years (in which I haven’t really had much contact with Jimmy, tbh), and an envelope drops through the letterbox of URHQ: it has a Danish postmark and inside it is the new album from… yep, you’ve guessed it: Kickin fuckin’ Valentina… Finally, the fates had aligned again and were on my side… Now, I must admit, it got an initial spin – and then sat gathering dust for a while in a big pile of CDs marked “I’ll get to them”: and, eventually, as fate had determined, I got to reacquaint myself with ‘Imaginary Creatures’. And, I must admit, it’s hardly been off my death deck ever since!

 

On the press release that accompanied the submission it says “Kickin Valentina plays loud, unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll”. Simple, and straight to the point. Like the album. No airs, no graces, just rock ‘n’ roll, pure ‘n’f’n’ simple. KV also play it mean and dirty, and strut with a confidence that just borders on the right side of arrogance without stepping over that thin line. The guitars crunch and grind, the bass pumps and thumps and the drums snap and snarl – and, as for Joe Edwards: by all the gods of r’n’r, this guy has it nailed in every department: gritty, harmonic, nasty but nice, drawn from the innermost depths of his damned soul. The sort of voice that sounds like it’s been recorded after a session of gargling razor blades washed down with Buckfast.

 

‘Eyes’ kicks proceedings off with the virtually obligatory AOR-style scan through a car radio before Heber Pampillon’s guitar picks up the smooth groove, underpinned by Berdine’s precision percussion and Chris Taylor’s dense bass, which throughout helps to take away the sheen which would otherwise have spoiled the sleazy feel of the album. Talking of sleaze, you can’t much dirtier in your underpants than ‘Turns Me On’: pure Sunset Strip gutter rock. In fact, I’ll tell you no more, ‘cos the video’s right here:

 

 

Proving they’re no one trick pony, ‘Devil’s Hand’ sees KV slide their way lecherously into grunge territory, while maintaining their one-track mind lyrical approach with the chorus of “I’ve got a devil in my pocket and I’m coming for you”: gloriously inane yet equally bombastic in its lewdness. ‘Eat ‘N Run’ may sound like an invitation from your local takeaway: if so, take it up, ‘cos this a delicious slice of lascivious cock rock that’s up there with anything the likes of any sleaze band you care to name could have laid down. ‘Crazy’, meanwhile, sees them ease back on the pedal for the first time, built as it is around an acoustic riff, which develops into the sort of arena rock anthem that the likes of Alter Bridge could quite easily take to the next level: but this one belongs to Kickin Valentina and they’ll do more than if you try to nick it!

 

‘Street’ introduces a southern country rock swagger which sees KV taking on upstarts like Black Stone Cherry and kicking them into the middle of the next century: distorted vocals mingle with one of Edwards’ cleanest deliveries, before Pampillon ups the ante and delivers a blistering solo that would make the likes of Eddie Van Halen blush with embarrassment. And the background piano is a simply sublime touch. Then it’s straight back into the gutter with the swaggering ‘Roll Ya One’, with its pumping beat and punchy riff, underpinned by an understated slide blues mien which adds an extra layer of depth: KV definitely know the art of subtlety and how to employ it, forcing the listener to actually do that and explore the depths of this album through repeated listenings (there’s a beautiful little twang at the end of the solo that I missed on my first two).

 

‘Heartbreak’ takes us into the final third of the album with another visceral snarl: the most straightforward rock ‘n’ roll song on here, especially with it’s pure 4/4 backbeat, it nevertheless twists and gurns like a lunatic, while Edwards’ vocal is right on the tip of your nose as it squares you right in the eye and defies you not to dance. Weirdly, they choose a cover as the penultimate track: it’s Elvis’ ‘Burning Love’ – and, boy, do they own it or what? Somewhat in the vein of Ricky Warwick, Edwards sticks his tongue firmly and squarely in his cheek as the band live it up and jive away in the background: the use of backing vocals is sublimely ridiculous in its evocation of the ritual, but Pampillon’s guitar break just redefines the song.

 

Ironically, the closing title track sounds somewhat out of place. Yes, it retains that dark crunch which has characterised the album to date, and the subject matter is one which deserves to be addressed publicly, but if I had been choosing the track listing I would have stuck at the beginning of the second half, as it would have fitted better into the flow of proceedings. The fact that it is slightly slower than the few tracks which precede just dissipate the final momentum you would love to experience.

 

It’s getting ever closer to that time of year when websites such as ourselves start handing out accolades for things like ‘Album Of The Year’. I’m going to admit that 2017 is going to be one of the most difficult years in which to make such choices, as the quality of music being produced just seems to be getting better and better… but, I will tell you this: ‘Imaginary Creatures’ is most definitely on my long list of contenders. And it should be on yours as well.

 

‘Imaginary Creatures’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

www.facebook.com/KickinValentina/

 

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