By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Spending this last summer relentlessly touring the country, Long Beach's the Valley Arena have wound their way back to their hometown just as their second full-length makes its anticipated arrival. The band's live show, an exalted and delirious display of cerebral East Coast-inspired post-punk, has gained them a rabid fan base in LA and OC, plus a coveted spot at Austin's South By Southwest a few months back.
Bearing a striking resemblance to '90s inamoratos Fugazi (had Fugazi formed 10 years later than they did), the Valley Arena's Sesso.Vita (Italian for "Sex.Life") brings a more evolved, heightened awareness of the link between intellectualism and raw sexual desire.
The first track, "Bed," is a fine introduction to their razor-sharp melodies (courtesy of guitarist Chris Stevens and bassist Dave South), uniformly aggressive beats (drummer Mike Nielsen) and soulfully echoing vocals (guitarist/vocalist Warren Woodward). Songs such as "Perfume Has Expired" and "More Adorned" clearly display the Valley Arena's fail-safe formula of layering a single line of slow, moaning vocals over several bars of dark, uptempo music. The result is a sound as ominous as it is sultry. "Trashy Janitor" takes the sinister feeling one step further with menacing drums, accusatory lyrics and eerie backup wails; the song finally lifts into a fiery tirade of clashing cymbals. "Kick at the Ceiling" (earlier released as a limited-edition single reinvented by mix-masters Free the Robots) is equal parts infectious and passionate, and the track most likely to break the Valley Arena out of the small but loving confines of Long Beach and into a much larger spectrum from which to cast their captivating glow.
The Valley Arena perform with Dos, Joe Lally and Capillary Action at Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Wed., 9 p.m. $7.
Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and a decent high-resolution photo (plus any impending performance dates and bribe money—large bills, please; daddy needs a new pair of shoes) for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly , 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to firstname.lastname@example.org