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Poor Valentino

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Hey, radio! Knock, knock. Who's there? Poor Valentino. Poor Valentino who? Um, there's no punchline, that's the whole bit.

Singer-songwriter Katy Chamis and her Durham-based gang lay down the gauntlet on their new platter, delivering a Bangles-inflected set of radio-ready rock that is slick in all the right ways but never pandering. Not as overtly new wave as fellow locals Gerty but every bit as ensconced in the '80s, their approach is unashamedly melodic. "Television," the lead track, offers the kind of massive pop hook that alternative rock promised at its beginnings and then just as quickly forsook in favor of mumbling post-Vedder atonality. (For you radio programmers, that was a Creed reference.) Lyrically, Chamis sets you up with shallow references to Dallas and Dynasty, and then delivers the blow with an unforgettable chorus: Television ain't a family/It was what we never could be.

And the hits keep on coming, led by Chamis' strong, unaffected voice. (Is it not waifish enough for you, o mysterious radio programmers?) On "Leave it Alone," Poor Valentino even pull off the triple salchow of pop music--the rock ballad--holding back just enough to create some tension and perfectly letting the air out with great vocal harmonies.

Billboard's Modern Rock Chart be damned! How can this not be on the radio?! (That was a rhetorical question, you music directors.)--gavin o'hara

Poor Valentino plays Kings this Thursday, March 1.

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