The Valley – The Valley (Self-Released)

This six-song EP is The Valley’s first release since their 2005 debut (confusingly, also a self-titled EP). The group’s music remains heavy as hell and still has me wondering just how three people can produce such a thick sound. Listen for influences and you’ll hear grunge groups like Mudhoney and Nirvana, but also subtle hints of psychedelia (like the Mellotron in “Come Down”), shoegazing (the warped guitar sounds on “Death Star Gunner”), ’70s stoner rock (frequent twin guitar leads and cowbells), and a few Joy Division lyrics that found their way onto “Come Down”. As much as you hear influences, The Valley stake out their own territory because they put together memorable songs with some killer melodies, and all three members are talented (especially drummer Jim Laws, who pounds away with such fury he must have to replace his kit after each rehearsal). Highly recommended.


The Valley – The Valley (Swingline Records)

Where the hell did this come from? I never expected to hear a great grunge album in 2005, but here we are. The Valley’s sound is classic Seattle grunge, whether they like it or not, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Yes, they use guitar effects like My Bloody Valentine, and sometimes the bass player lays down a stoner-rock drone like Nick Oliveri’s wet dream, but for the most part this self-titled album sounds like something that could have come out on Sub Pop around the same time as Nirvana’s Bleach and Mudhoney’s first singles (producer Johnny Sangster has worked with Mudhoney). However, The Valley isn’t so much influenced by the grunge bands of the late-’80s as they are influenced by the same great bands those bands were all listening to (MC5, Black Sabbath, Stooges, Led Zeppelin, Black Flag….etc.). And that’s what makes this the real deal.

“Set To Light” starts the album perfectly with an assault of guitar noise, insane drumming ( Jim Laws is a delight to listen to as he slams his kit to produce some of the craziest fills I’ve ever heard) and singing that rages with punk aggression, yet is also tuneful. Next track, “On Swallows Nest,” is what Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf would have sounded like if Dave Grohl sang in addition to handling the drum duties. In fact, lead singer Dan Beliot often sounds like Dave Grohl, but The Valley’s music is far more interesting than The Foo Fighters. The band gets a little spacey on “Cold Killa,” but without sacrificing any of the intensity you’ve already come to expect from them halfway through this short album. The awesomely titled “Kisses, Hugs & Prescription Drugs” comes pretty close to Mudhoney circa-1990, but ups the ’70s stoner-rock vibe with wah-wah and cowbells. “Blue Lights Turn Me On” starts off with another of Laws’ “drum clinics” and blooms into one of those great songs where the entire band is completely in the pocket. It closes with another lengthy number, “New No. 2” which clocks in with over eight-minutes of beautiful slow-motion sludge.

One of the best things I’ve heard this year. More, please.