Back in January I reviewed a double A-Side by Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars entitled ‘I’m Gonna Try/East Van Girls’, for (whisper it) another publication. At the time, the three-piece offered a slightly different take on the glut of 50s and 60s influenced surf/Spectoresque guitar-pop spewing forth from every major city in California. Singer Rory McClure’s lyrics were beautifully morose. He wrote, as I put it at the time, ‘delicate two-minute songs about love and social anxiety’. Nine months later we find he and bandmates Andrew Dergousoff and Brent Sasaki unwilling to stray far from that original blueprint. Over the course of two songs such a confessional tone seemed refreshing and endearing; stretched across a whole album it becomes tiresome, leaving you with an undeniable urge to scream that most unhelpful of rebuttals - ‘Pull yourself together man!’

The afore mentioned double A-Side contains by far their two best songs: ‘I’m Gonna Try’ features McClure’s finest lyrical progression; a none more accurate description of young male neuroses will you find anywhere – “Walking down the street/and I want to kill everyone I see/how come I don’t like anyone that I meet/and despite my antipathy/I have a longing to be someone better/in my heart there’s a violence”. Mariachi guitars and reverberating drums fill in the gaps. ‘East Van Girls’ provides possibly the most ‘fun’ moment of the record, all Beach Boys riffs and youthful exuberance. The record is crying out for more songs like this. Unfortunately, the track seems to have been re-recorded for the album, losing much of its original crispness and sparkle.

‘Into The Sea’ and ‘Nervous Breakdown’ are nice enough, but pass by without incident. It is perhaps ‘Privilege’ that offers us the deepest insight into McClure’s soul – “I just want to be happy…I’ve got no reason to feel this way”. ‘Sun’s Going Down’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ and ‘Other Girls’ continue in a similar vain but it’s around this point that attention begins to wane. ‘Sabians’ starts well; a warm, hymn-like quality permeates the opening 30 seconds before the track takes a turn for the minor and everything is lost. Similarly, ‘Did I Lose You’ threatens to go somewhere but never does. It’s left to the rousing guitar work of album closer ‘Walk Away’ to pick up the pieces…three or four songs too late.

To be fair to the band, their bio alludes to ‘how trite it is to be writing songs about…floating in a state of suspended adolescence’ and McClure is nothing if not self-deprecating. Unfortunately, many of the songs on Violent Hearts are simply too one-dimensional, a situation not helped by a fairly limited musical palette. There are plenty of bands who do this kind of retro pastiche far better - check out The Raveonettes’ Pretty In Black or Tennis’ excellent Cape Dory. This record is not without merit, hence the 7/10, but may I suggest downloading the singles only.