Apart from a reputation for really great coffee, Australia and Washington state don’t have much in common – think of the weather, for a start – so it’s curious that one of the best grunge records since the death of Kurt Cobain has been made by a band from Melbourne. Valentiine are an all-female power trio who obsessively channel the sound of Seattle circa 1993. In fact, on their self-titled debut album they sound eerily like a lost-and-found band from the latter part of the American alt rock boom – or at least like each member of the band has listened to Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ every day for the last five years.
There’s a lot of ‘Nevermind’ on ‘Valentiine’, actually: the chorus effect on the guitar, the metallic bass sound, the loud-quiet-loud dynamics, the four-chord structures, the lyrics that swap unnervingly between gross-out glee (‘Chucky’), black despair (‘Birthday’) and self-aware bolshiness (‘Hates Me’)… With that kind of set-up, you’d expect frontwoman Vanessa V to sing like Courtney Love, Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon, one of the Deal sisters from The Breeders or another of the era’s iconic female vocalists. So it’s startling, and kind of creepy, when you realise halfway through the album’s first track that she sounds instead exactly like a female Cobain: the timing; the delivery; even, somehow, the accent.
In fact, were they not so damn convincing, Valentiine could be accused of flogging a horse that’s been dead for 20 years. As it is, there’s an admirable level of purity here, a single-minded pursuit of a specific sound, which suggests a respectful tribute rather than a servile devotion to their influences. It’s certainly a thousand times better anything that has ever been described as ‘post-grunge’. Add to that purity the sincere world-weariness audible in V’s vocals (she’s overcome heroin addiction, teenage homelessness and parental abuse) and you’ve got something much, much better than a Topshop-style grunge revival.
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