Type in Chad Valley into your search engine and you'll be presented with long established range of children's toys; founded in Birmingham as an independent bought by the last bastion of 'Englishness' Woolworths in 1988. You wonder why Hugo Manuel, whose name can't help but allude to notions of exoticism (in my head at least), would shed it in favour of Chad Valley, product of grey industrial Britain consumed by the kids of yesteryear. Nostalgia is the reason. Though the sentimental longing for the past is often exacted in intensity, deep confusion and reckless emotion, Young Hunger is coy and conditioned, almost so of its time it's perhaps unwise to call it nostalgia at all in terms other than mere chronological fact.

The album opens with 'I Owe You This' featuring another 80s aficionado Twin Shadow. Starting tentatively, Manuel's almost reluctantly guttural vocals, caress the light instrumentation as it explodes into sprite synth line. Like his collaborator, Manual creates music that, upon hearing, doesn't actively seem to reference the past – in fact it feels more detached from it than it sounds. Of course, it's impossible to deny that they have a deep affection from these jolty manufactured sounds of that decade, but to enjoy his music we don't have to. Young Hunger truly captures the universal, time-defying nature of pop music.

Still, with this track's glossy sheen, Twin Shadow's guest vocals sounding primal, pained and heartfelt, feels emotionally instantaneous. He isn't singing of vicarious pain but something that appears to be personal. Through the album, there is an attempt to condition this, that isn't quite fulfilled. It's not fair to say that Manuel values music over emotion completely. In 'Fall 4 U' featuring vocals from Glasser, you feel a genuine sense of sentimental urgency. Stand out track 'Evening Surrender' sounds like an ode to blue-eyed British soul that would make Spandau Ballet proud; from the tracks sluggish simplicity as Manuel sings the self-affirming mantra "you know I want to do this together/you know I want to go far." Still, this isn't consistent. There is the option to write an album embedded in emotion or contrived for enjoyment, but as Manuel employs fragments of both, their purposes interweave, losing their truest formal sense in the process.

In the second half of the album loses momentum for this reason. The catchy hooks are replaced by half-baked emotions and slight self-indulgence. Though 'Interlude' serves little sonic purpose, it does mark a sense of tiredness that continues after it – as though with the self-limiting model of influence Manuel set himself, could not conjure up enough inspiration to truly fill out an album. Having said that, 'Young Hunger' is oddly fascinating – opening like a 2012 response to Whitney's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', there is an endearing comfort in the song, like the rest of the album. Final track 'Manimals' featuring Active Child, is textured by drum pattern and effervescent vocals, and though it doesn't seem to really mark an 'end' in any grand way, it's one of a few songs on the album that turned out balanced – from both and emotive and sonic perspective.

Though it may be unjust (or just) to say, Young Hunger suffers from both the highs and lows of embedding such an oft-referenced time period. There is something simple and clear about the album – as though Manuel knows and can fully actualise the vision for him music. But the problem isn't exactly that it lack originality, rather that his fixation with the 80s sounds limits the scope of what it the album could achieve. In purely hedonistic terms though, the album is the best kind of bubblegum pop: bouncy and bright while channelling painstaking adolescence, it's a sweetly infectious.