The name Valentine Black, and the musical sound that goes along with it suggests a band but the connotation is deceptive, as Valentine Black is in fact, a solo artist, a one man band, if you will. Peco Mcloughlin undertook the name in his bid to launch a solo-career after years of performing as part many bands, including the once popular Bright Light Fiasco, who achieved mild success in their time.
Since the launch of his endeavour as Valentine Black the talented singer-songwriter has earned praise from the most important music journalists in Ireland, including the famed Jackie Hayden. Comparisons have evidently been generating over the past few years; many of which in fact take away from the beauty of this man’s talent. He is unlike the majority of unsigned acts circulating the Irish music scene and it is hoped that his latest album release Desire Lines, serves as proof that he is miles apart from those he has been compared to in the past such as The Blizzards and The Coronas. The immediate impression from Desire Lines is that the tracks blow dust in the eyes of the aforementioned mediocre bands with their subtle beauty and Bob Dylan-esque melodies; complete with harmonica, of course. There are no heavy or hard-hitting political songs to be found, so it would be fair to suggest that the album is a watered-down tribute to the legendary musician. Valentine Black’s vocals are not dissimilar to those of Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano, adding a particularly moody tone to some of the songs. The similarity is strongest in Love Oceans, a wonderfully catchy song that merits several listens. “Catchy” is a word that can be affiliated with the majority of, if not all of the songs as Valentine Black is clearly a masterful Irish musician. The most infectious track on the album is the one that you would not expect to grab your attention from the outset. The title track is minimalistic but it is one of the most infectious tracks on the album; no guitars, no gimmicks, just a simple beat and warm vocals. It is a song full of wisdom and intriguing lyrics; as instantly loveable as a Neil Young song. Another stand-out track is Return of the Locust Eaters; it is a beautifully touching song about a loved one moving to the big city of London. Valentine Black’s story telling skills come into play here, bring us back to the comparisons to Young and Dylan ; the way in which he progressively tells of the heartache and loneliness is poignant, particularly when it reaches the lyric: “Wades to a tattoo change”. It is beautiful and simple imagery, yet symbolic in a way in which the listener can instantly put themselves in his shoes; a poem put to music.
Overall there is no reason this album shouldn’t spur on Valentine Black’s career. Each song is seeping with talent and emotion, perfectly intertwined. On each listen you will find a new cleverly placed lilt, a new hidden meaning and beautiful poetic construction you have not realised before. The album is a wonderful example of the kind of talent that is missing from Irish music.