Discover the ‘Magnificence’ of Marc Valentine’s New Power Pop LP

There are moments when a particular song or album is endearing because of the sheer joy it brings. Sometimes it takes time to really listen to what the artist is saying, no matter how saccharine it sounds. Such is the case with Marc Valentine’s new album, Basement Sparks, out via the always-cool Wicked Cool Records. 

The album contains 11 songs of power pop perfection fused with garage rock, punk rock, and a tinge of classic rock. The follow-up to 2022’s Future Obscure is infectious yet insightful; subjects range from political and science fiction to the desire to be alone and experiences of the supernatural kind. The singer describes Basement Sparks as his “most complete album to date.”

Basement Sparks was produced by Dave Draper (The Wildhearts, Ryan Hamilton, The Professionals). Draper also contributes guitar, bass, backing vocals, and keyboards. Valentine gathered a team of trusted collaborators – lead guitarist Richard Davies (Richard Davies & The Dissidents, The Snakes), bassist Steve Fielding (Last Great Dreamers, The Boys), drummer Denley Slade (Last Great Dreamers, Sister Morphine), keyboardist and vocalist Carol Hodge (The Carol Hodge Band, Steve Ignorant), and vocalist Emily Ewing (Ginger Wildheart, Ryan Hamilton). 

“Complicated Sometimes” gets the train rolling. Plain and simple, the lead-off track puts the power in power pop. The second track and album’s third single, “Tyrannical Wrecks,” is an example of catchy and contemplative songwriting. Valentine explained that the track is, “An observation of the abuse and vanity of power. It was inspired by the pandemic – when, through the lockdowns, there were different rules for the privileged and no consequences. Their parties, networking, and money-making schemes carried on as normal. They flaunted their power with disdain, as people cowered in their homes, terrified and alone. We lost so many people, and so many things, yet they gained even more power and wealth.” The video was directed by Roland Harris and filmed at Voewood Hall, Holt, Norfolk. 

“Skeleton Key” then explores the darker side of a relationship inspired by the opening scene from a late ’60s Hammer horror film. The song is backed with a cover version of The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, a long-time favorite of Valentine’s. It mixes emotional turmoil with dark humor. 

“Eve of Distraction” and “I Wanna Be Alone” follow suit with more tumult and wit. At this point, I’m convinced Valentine is one of the most skilled songsmiths of the 21st century. “3AM Anderson Drive” is one of the two melancholy melodies on Basement Sparks. The Beatles-esque feel makes it a special experience, while “Strange Weather” was born from Valentine’s obsession with UFOs and sci-fi movies. (IE: CrittersGremlins, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.) The track poses the question “Is what you’ve seen real, or is your mind just playing tricks?”  A copious amount of caffeine has the same reaction.

Speaking of caffeine, the coffee cup spins round and round on the track “You Are One of Us Now,” while “Opening Chase Theme” provides a jolt with its punk sensibilities. “Repeat Offender” is another toe-tapper. The closer, “Ballad of Watt,” asks the listener to sing along to the saddest song if it makes you feel alright. 

Basement Sparks made me feel more than alright. It’s a merry-go-round of musical magnificence. Marc Valentine’s first US tour began yesterday on March 21, and he is making two local stops this weekend: 3/23 at Berlin Under A in New York and 3/24 at Live At Drew’s in Ringwood, New Jersey. Be sure to hop on the ride and enjoy every moment.