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‘Valentine’s Day’ debut catchy but needs refinement

“Jesus Christ could you please fuck off!” Dane Leoniak ’20 sings in the first track of “Good, Clean, Christian Fun,” a new album released by Valentine’s Day, a band made up of Brandeis students. The song’s opening is an abrasive polka party fever dream, before judiciously becoming a rock song. “No one will ever know me, because I’m really very lonely,” lead vocalist Leoniak sings. It’s a theme present on the album: The absurdity of sanitized beliefs, matched with an ever-present, guardedly ironic voice, filtered through a punk rock and 60s psychedelia-inspired sonic palette.

Mainly the brainchild of Leoniak, the band also features Max Monheit ’20 on the piano and keyboards, Evan Sayer ’20 on guitars, Sam Stern ’20 and Alex Behr ’21 trading off on drums, and Nate Rowe ’21 on bass. The music is raw and self-referential and melancholy. “In the new millenium, you can have friends you never met,” Leoniak sings, in the chorus to “Internet Friends / Internet Love.”

The lyrics reflect a self-conscious sadness, the singer feeling isolated and frustrated with himself. “I feel bad being near you, I feel like I’m ruining your aspirations and your expectations,” Max Monheit sings in “I Feel Bad.”
As for the band’s influences, Leoniak listed “The Kinks, The Monkees, early Weezer and Car Seat Headrest.” You can definitely hear the sixties psychedelia inspiration, for example, in the opening of “My Vexing Valentine,” draws The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” vibes. The rest of the band cited Sorority Noise, The Cowsills, Nilsson and Jeff Rosenstock. The Insane Clown Posse was also referenced.

“I had released a song under the name in 2017,” Leoniak said, “After that I got everyone together except Sam last year to record and perform a bunch of songs I had written. Evan and Max were living with me at the time, and I knew Nate through choir … and we recorded the album over last semester.”

“A lot of times I’ll come up with a vague idea, or I’ll sit down and decide I’m going to write a song,” Leoniak said. “A lot of times they don’t come together till far down the line.”

The songs can be unwieldy and unrefined—sometimes a little crude, in all senses of the word. However, there are sparks of good ideas. The guitar riff on “Nothing” gets stuck in your head, as well as the chorus to “Internet Friends / Internet Love.” On the bridge of “Klittenband,” the heavy guitar and high-octave piano come together nicely.

But my favorite song is “I Need You (Can’t Keep Wasting Time).” It’s an album standout, well-crafted that starts out slow and builds over time. A dirge-like drumbeat complements an acoustic guitar, before being joined by electric instruments. The opening reminds me of 90s-era Radiohead. It begins grungy and morose, and then explodes with energy—reminiscent of something by Car Seat Headrest.

“‘I Need You’ was written after a huge bout of writer’s block during the summer,” Leoniak said. “It kind of started by laying on the ground with my guitar, which usually leads to playing around with simple repetitive melodies, and the song just kind of came about through that experience.” The song came partly from the writer’s block and was “partly about being too sad to get off the floor,” in addition to a deep hatred of his home state of Maryland.

I think the band could stand to define their sound a bit more. Sometimes we’re in an R.E.M. 90s rock register, and then the next moment things shift back to the more psychedelic sounds of the 60s. They’re able to play both, but in order to form something more cohesive and lasting, they’d benefit by fleshing out exactly what they want to sound like. That said, it’s rock music I would definitely mosh to, particularly the fast and catchy “Heart Eyes,” the last song on the album. “I Need You (Can’t Keep Wasting Time)” is my favorite by far—definitely worth giving a listen.

Valentine’s Day’s debut album, “Good, Clean, Christian Fun” is available on Spotify and Bandcamp now, with the band slated to play a show at Chum’s next Friday.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article listed Dane Leoniak as the singer of “I Feel Bad,” which has now been changed to correctly credit Max Monheit.

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