The Three Sides of Cyanide Valentine reviewed by Gabe Durham
The name Cyanide Valentine makes me think of a muscled skinhead screaming “Pull the trigger / Pull the trigger / Stick it to ya head / and pull the trigger” in songs with titles like “Final Solution” and, uh, “Pull the Trigger.” So when I downloaded The Three Sides of Cyanide Valentine, my expectations were way down there.
They exceeded them in the first few seconds of “MegaFauna”. “Hey,” I said to my wife. “This doesn’t suck. Plus it’s free.” Free! Let’s not give Radiohead too much credit. Just because they released the best free album, they didn’t release the first.
The Three Sides alternates between dreamy, psychedelic pop and electronica, sometimes in the same song. They mention Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin as an all-time favorite, and I think that’s a pretty good touchstone. I’d throw out the names Pink Floyd and Massive Attack.
The album delivers some great pop moments. “Neanderthals,” with its big, ah-filled chorus, march drums, and steady build, sounds like Blur at their more melodic. “Nosferatu” is a sleek single with a chorus (“Inside your heart you’re dead”) that works better as a comment on Jim Jones’ suicide cult than a no-brainer observation about vampires. The song is best heard in tandem with its music video/Jonestown mini-documentary on the band’s blog.
The downside to free is that the band probably doesn’t get the diversity of instruments they might like and have to lean a bit to heavily on ahs, guitars, beats and tricks. A bass guitar would give “Neanderthals” the muscle that a programmed bass can’t deliver.
Some of the instrumentals are skippable. “Neon Skyhustler” would be more comfortable on the soundtrack to a spy videogame than here. “Kate” is the album’s best instrumental, as it offers something different, whereas the others sound like they’re just unfinished songs.
Valentine saves it’s best material for last. The pretty, acoustic guitar driven “Milk in the Gutter” deftly transitions into the electro-rock of “The Reprise,” which features the best studio noodling on the whole album while maintaining its emotional core.
Still, The Three Sides is a cohesive, homespun-in-the-good-way effort by a band that is serious about production and songwriting. See how this works? As long as we eschew the economy and share our work, we’ll all be happy if a bit hungry.