Stylish U.K. five-piece Morton Valence has been marked out as an interesting band on the cusp of greatness. That early promise is now richly fulfilled with the release of Bob and Veronica Ride Again. It’s an album you want to listen to over and over, from start to finish, without skipping a track. The perfect antidote, you could say, to the ubiquitous iPod Shuffle. The CD itself is accompanied by a charming, witty, and sometimes crazy novella, all financed by the band’s own fans who bought shares in the project.
Bob and Veronica Ride Again tells the story of, well, Bob and Veronica. Two star-crossed, most probably ill-matched lovers set loose in the dull landscape of South London yet still able to swing from chandeliers, get down to boogie, fall down the stairs and camp among the crickets. It is the combination of the ordinary with the extraordinary both lyrically and musically that makes Bob and Veronica such a creative success. There’s something quintessentially English about their urban tales, yet with an Englishman, Irish woman and three South Americans, Morton Valence have a truly international line-up. Again this combination of cultures adds richness and diversity to their music.
Vocalist and synth player, Anne Gilpin, has a delicious, breathy vocal style a little reminiscent of Julee Cruise at the Roadhouse a la Twin Peaks. The connection to the cult favorite does not end there. Much of the album would fit very comfortably, if that’s quite the right word, in a David Lynch soundtrack. Main man, Robert Hacker Jessett, shares the vocal duties and contributes guitar, trumpet and even megaphone. Jessett’s sometimes gruff, sometimes crooner style works especially well on the duets with Gilpin which punctuate the album. This is carefully crafted pop balladry gilded with electro overtones and shaded by sharp infectious rhythms.
It is difficult to highlight individual songs because they are worked so well into the overall frame. “Chandelier” takes a familiar descending chord sequence and decorates it with an epic and emotive arrangement. “Sequin Smile” is dark, broody, sexy while “Ordinary Pleasures” is at times pure lounge music. There are some great dance tunes — the stomping “Funny Peculiar” and fabulous bass groove of “Falling Down the Stairs” — while the country-tinged John Young’ is highlighted by Jessett’s guitar noir, the strings damaged in deliberate elongated arpeggios. The poignant Hang it on the Wall’ sits well with the mournful trumpet interlude in I must go’ which then dissolves into a cacophonic conclusion. Finally “Go to Sleep” provides the perfect ending to a dark bedtime story.
The greatest task a band faces is getting heard. Morton Valence has turned their backs on the conventional route to market and, with fan finance, produced an absolute gem of an album, which deserves to be heard by the wider world.