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Imaginary Creatures

Mighty Music (2017)
Rating: 8/10

Isn’t it funny how a million bands of this drivin’ hard rock edginess emerged back in the 80s and early 90s but never got a look in, yet suddenly in today’s climate we’re almost forced to take notice of something that is ultimately derivative?

Hey, I’m just being honest, but I still enjoy Kickin Valentina and their straight down the line ballsy melodic rock which literally borrows – unintentionally or not – from just about every sleaze-tinged act from the halcyon days of hard rock when acts such as Johnny Crash, D.A.D., Spread Eagle et al gave everything but couldn’t live up to the might of bigger bands such as Guns N’ Roses.

For me, the more contemporary bands I’ve been dealing with have been far too glossy, but Kickin Valentina have a very authentic vibe and enough swagger that I want to throw them alongside the likes of Beautiful Creatures and Last Vegas; two other killer acts who, in spite of their unoriginality, should’ve taken on the world, but never did.

There still doesn’t seem to be a place for this type of generic, ballsy rock, and that’s a shame because what Imaginary Creatures offers up is a very sincere brand of rock ‘n’ roll with big hooks, a raspy vocal, and an energetic saunter which I just couldn’t peel my ears away from. Okay, so the bandanas, the whiskey swiggin’ and the leather all seems rather contrived, but I guess I’m just cynical in my old age to this generic biker rock. But hey, this is a bunch of guys who’ve toured with the likes of Buckcherry, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns and Skid Row, so who am I to criticise?

Imaginary Creatures is the second opus from the combo, and in spite of my grievances I really like it. I can’t go round giving every album a 9 or a maximum 10 rating, after all, I’m not Kelv Hellrazer, but Imaginary Creatures is a sturdy enough addition to the sleaze rock genre, and one that’s rough enough around the edges too.

Much of this rugged excitement is caused by the scratchy pipes of Joe Edwards. Behind Edwards sits founder members Jimmy Berdine on drums and Heber Pampillon (great name dude!) on guitar, with the trio joined by bassist Chris Taylor.

The platter offers up ten songs which for the most part remind me of a mix of Guns N’ Roses, D.A.D and Circus Of Power; all delivered with an oily arrogance which recalls the glorious era of the Sunset Strip. Tracks which immediately standout are ‘Turn Me On’ with its infectious hooks and the anthemic ‘Crazy’ which drags away from the raucous and the rowdy and is delivered with a slower pace. ‘Street’ and ‘Roll Ya One’ are standard party rockers, but you can’t fail to be moved by their boisterous attitude, while ‘Eat ’N Run’ and ‘Devil’s Hand’ are well-soiled dirt-bags sure to leave a mess on the carpet.

You know where I’m going here; Kickin Valentina are a rock ‘n’ roll band, and there’s nothing really more I can add. There’s a good mixture of grit and beef to ensure that a good time is had by all, but within those filthy folds and lethal layers is a band that knows how to write a good song. This isn’t just a case of by-numbers 80s imitation, and cuts such as ‘Heartbreak’ are a prime example of that quality.

The whole machine is one of simple yet effective design and built around those heavy grooves and Joe Edwards’ familiar yet feisty yelps, and where I’ve been so dulled by acts such as Crash Diet and Reckless Love, I somehow find an enthusiasm for Kickin Valentine.

These fellas are no spring chickens, and are clearly well-trained in the eye for creating seedy, swaggering tunes that never appear too polished as one would expect with today’s almost manufactured wannabes. Okay, so the cover of ‘Burning Love’ – the song made famous by Elvis Presley – didn’t impress, but overlook the flaws dotted about this ramshackle creature and you’ll find a beast that isn’t so easily tamed. Good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll can still be done, and here’s the proof.

Neil Arnold

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