Valentine Parade, the newest release by one-man-band Ray McLaughlin, known to the music world as Chancellorpink, is one of those CDs that feels like it should be on cassette. The jangly guitar riffs of “Unfinished Valentine”, the dark, crooning vocals of “Red Wedding Dress”, and the soft synth pop of “Baby’s Gone to Bible” give the impression that the album was recorded somewhere around 1988 and then shelved for 20 years until its 2008 Valentine’s Day release. The music video on 120 Minutes is easy to envision, squished between the Sundays and the Church. The sound is certainly nostalgic for those who savor such days gone by, lending the album a certain amount of charm.
Sadly, that charm dissipates halfway through, with the lyrically-interesting but musically tedious “The Red Sea”, and woefully generic “Knotted Shoelace” and “Orange Velvet Chairs”. Interest picks up again around “Baby’s Gone to Bible”, then offers “I Tear Window Down”, maybe the strongest song on the album, and finishes with the title track, a mild electronica experiment that seems timid and out of place. The award for the Song Most Out of Order has to be “She Came in Dreams”, a gritty ditty that would have been much better as the finishing song.
McLaughlin’s lyrics range from clever to groan-worthy, yet are obviously personal and real, and his emotions drench each song like a heavy syrup, seeping into every spoonful of music. If you’re currently going through a divorce or a bad breakup, you’ll likely find McLaughlin’s lamenting easy to drown yourself in: “When I think you don’t think of me / All my hope diminishes”. And so on. Valentine Parade stumbles on occasion, and fans of lo-fi albums obviously made by a guy in his bedroom may be disappointed when McLaughlin seems to try too hard to be “edgy”. But the net effect is an interesting, disjointed, calm sort of rage, of the sort that tends to come after the kind of heartbreak Chancellorpink fixates upon.