REVIEW: The Red Hot Valentines: Summer Fling
The Red Hot Valentines: Summer Fling [Polyvinyl, 2003] (mp3)
Three words? the bitter sweetness
For the most part, I don't care how CDs are packaged. I'm not terribly concerned with graphics and pictures and whatnot. But to my total astonishment, the case for The Red Hot Valentines' Summer Fling gently warmed my cantankerous, Scrooge-like heart. Fashioned to look like a dog-eared high school notebook complete with doodles of cubes and hearts-with-arrows, it's like a little memento from the good old days of homeroom and fire-drills. But if Christmas and Hershey Cherry Blossoms have taught us anything, it is that shitty things often come in small, clever packages.
The Red Hot Valentines deal solely in the business of sugar-buzz pop music. This would be fine, but it takes a certain amount of skill and finesse to craft good pop music. So the Red Hots lack of songwriting smarts leaves them sounding a bit hollow, like Matthew Sweet without the talent or Beach Boys influence. To listen to Summer Fling is to hear what sounds like ten attempts at the same annoying song, each with varying spins on the "boy meets girl and/or boy loses girl" scenario. No hooks or standout melodies linger after listening, just the inalienable feeling of being one boring-ass half hour closer to death.
Sonic parity aside, the real failing of Summer Fling is its dismal, childish lyrics. Lines like "If it takes forever to take you by the hand/ At least I'll know that it was worth the time it took to lose my mind" and "oh Christine/ You're so mean" are too stupid to be tongue-in-cheek and sung with too much insincerity to be heartfelt.
In defense of The Red Hot Valentines, there's a good chance that I am totally missing the point. Maybe the concept is to recreate the teenage garage band feel, with all its bad poetry and ADD guitar playing. Maybe Summer Fling is trying to remind us that there's something fun and nostalgic about adolescent infatuation and heartbreak. If that's what the band was going for, then I respect that. I just don't ever want to listen to it again.