Ah, summer! We're gonna say goodbye to you soon, but I don't think I've ever thanked you for inspiring thousands upon thousands of summer songs. From the Beach Boys to The Cowsills and Jan & Dean to Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day and Buffalo Tom, there's nothing better than a really red-hot summertime record. A great record captures, in three minutes or less, the essence of of youth and what it means to be young: free of responsibility for tomorrow and to have no loyalty to anything except the pleasure principal. It's the essence of innocent love fading upon the coming autumn of adulthood. (Sorry for gettin' all My So-Called Life on you there, but I think you know what I mean.)
Champaign's Red Hot Valentines have created one of the best summer records I've heard this year. Their debut album, Summer Fling, is pure fun-in-the-sun from the get-go. From the beginning guitar riff of "Wait for Summer" (hint, hint) , you realize that Red Hot Valentines will be a band best experienced on a car stereo, with the volume cranked and the windows rolled down and the sunglasses on. Certainly nothing wrong with that!
The rest of Summer Fling never varies much from the new-wave-punk-rock-emo-style formula set by bands like Weezer, The Cars, and Get Up Kids--you can see where this is going, can't you? Let's not fret over that, though; like their name, these kids are RED HOT, and their songs are so cuddly and warm and loving, you know they're somebody's valentines. More importantly, it's quite obvious that these guys have got some massive power in their performance; their sound on record is already red-hot, and Summer Fling has an undeniable live feel. I get this feeling, though, that they've made a record that accurately documents their red-hot live show.
I've also gotta make a mention of Summer Fling's packaging. It's made to look like a red theme notebook, complete with scribbles, doodles and the name of the band etched into the cover via pencil eraser. That's all nice, but when you open it up, you'll find that the lyric book has been pasted onto the cover, and that the lyrics are printed up on notebook paper. The packaging fits into the whole summertime youth school feel, and it really takes you back to a younger, youthful time--and it makes you feel as if you're skipping school if you're listening to it before 3:30.
Summer Fling is the perfect snapshot of what it's like to be young. It's not too deep, too philosophical or too smart; it's not too depressing or lovelorn. The Red Hot Valentines have really captured what it's like to have fun in the sun, with no cares or worries about tomorrow. Songs about crushes, heartbreak and just having fun have never sounded so...vital. Too bad I missed it until now; this summer could have used such a wonderful soundtrack. Ah, well, with winter coming up, I'm sure it will serve quite well as a postcard of the forthcoming summer...