Judging from song titles, Bob and Veronica Ride Again, the second effort from Morton Valence, has narrative aspirations, but is a far greater success as a pop record. The vocal interplay between vocalists Rob Hacker and Anne Gilpin gives the album a spark that it otherwise would lack. After being sold on the sometimes prickly give and take between the two, the less apparent touches emerge, adding secondary notes to songs that initially seem rather weightless. Bob and Veronica Ride Again is as guiltless as a pop record can be, lovingly crafted and smart — even if it is just a tad pretentious.
After a short prelude that mainly serves the “story” aspect of the album, the band delivers its two standout tracks. “Chandeliers” uses an arrangement that in any other case would be too bell-heavy to capture the unreality that often accompanies the beginning of a relationship. Hacker and Gilpin’s lyrics fit perfectly with the melody, evoking the combined wonder and dread of these moments. The track flirts with preciousness throughout, but never crosses the border. A fuzzy guitar line that introducing “Sequin Smile” nicely switches the mood from sweet to sultry. The vocals again perfectly match the song, as Gilpin’s lead is nicely complemented on the chorus by touches from Hacker. Both tracks use the obvious chemistry between the two singers, perhaps the band’s best asset, to great effect.
The rest of Bob and Veronica Ride Again has variations on the same theme, but nothing strikes with the same intensity as “Chandeliers” or “Sequin Smile,” and the story of Bob and Veronica fails to develop past the fourth song. For example, “Hang It on the Wall” has a very nice shout-along chorus and “John Young” pairs a neat swaggering bass with Gilpin’s breathy lyrics, but neither song is as good as the band proves early on it can be.