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Secret Secret - The Living Secrets (album review)

From the foggy depths of California’s most beatnik and artistic city of San Francisco, comes the enigmatic, tall and slinky character who only refers to himself as Rob. And his project is the groovily titled Secret Secret. Here is a really neatly put together CD-R. The packaging is interesting for a start - the cover looking more like an vinyl LP cover than a CD holder! Some interesting asian artwork (Rob is well known for his fascination with Japan by the way).

So here is a 9 track live CD - is it live or is it Memorex? One wonders how everything sounds so very smoothly produced and sounding very studio like with the exception of some very obvious reverberation on the vocals of Rob. But the sound quality is very clear and Rob’s vocals are very clear and almost word spoken.

Car 17
First up is Car 17, I’ve always referred to this as “Pete Murphy singing over porn music” with plonky pop organs in the song- Secret Secret are so different to the Depeche Clones of the 90’s and the millennium. My first impression of Secret Secret was probably not too serious! Maybe I didn’t appreciate the subtle humour that Secret Secret encompass with such campness? But what you soon come to realize is that Rob is actually a very clever songwriter who has a feel that is pretty much his own.

People Go Out
People Go Out has a darker feel than that of Car 17 heavily leaning with foreign female vocals (Secret Secret combine English, French and Japanese in their songs). People Go Out is probably more gothic in nature than most of their other songs. With Rob’s deep vocals here, and there’s a touch of the theme from James Bond here too.

Itsumademo is a nice little pop song with some gorgeous synth leads in there. It’s not the strongest song on the CD –but Secret have very few songs that aren’t convicting anyway. Fragile female vocals in the background add some mix to this track too.

Count is another song rather in the vein of Itsumademo with more female vocals prominent this time around.

Cities In Dust
Next up is a cover of that rather splendid “Banshees” song Cities In Dust. This version sounds more stronger vocally from Rob than when I’ve seen him sing it live. Musically the song is rather similar to the Banshees vocals, and Rob goes for a lower, tortured version of singing than the higher quirky vox of Siouxsie on the original. It’s nice to see they haven’t utterly massacred this fine song unlike some versions I have heard before.

City Of Darkness
Like People Go Out, City Of Darkness is another gothic flirtation by Mr Rob. Pretty solid bass line too.

My favourite track on this CD has to be the Extremely catchy poptastic hit song Nichyobi, pure genius that somebody can take a song about a girl who is playing that old Atari classic Pong and write a really happy catchy song around it! The lyrics are really fun too – “As the little square ball, moves from side to side, it’s her paddle that beats me, I must confide, it’s Sunday night”, combine this with those foreign vocals- and sound samples from the game Pong, plus a really neat bounce along bass line that you can’t get out of your head , all these ingredients make for a really fun song you can easily dance all quirky to.

Wish comes across a slower and more serious track, as with a lot of Secret Secret’s music there are flirtations bordering somewhere between Japanese and gothic with a touch of Depeche Mode thrown in for good flavour. One thing I noticed with Secret Secret - is Rob’s ability to program very clever tunes that are not very technical - but are very effective instead.

Finally ending the live list is a cover of Gary Numan’s Metal - I’ve never heard the original – but I guess you can see where Secret Secret are coming from, and there’s definitely a certain feel of Numan here with those oh so distinctive vocals of Numan finely captured by Rob – accompanied by the monophonic stark gothic tinge of Numan’s synths. Tres chic!

And as an extra treat we have 5 bonus tracks that are not titled on the CD. These are:

A remix of People Go Out (The Spy Mix), Itsumademo (Lexi Mix), Nichyobi (USA Mix), Count (Duet Mix), and People Go Out (BSO Mix).

Then add a multimedia section of pics from SS’s tours of the west coast (I’m even on there too! Heh heh) along with a video snippet of Nichyobi (Rob looks ultra vampiric here!) plus interviews etc. This makes for a really really interesting, good value for money CD-R that has been lovingly crafted by Rob (a professionally minded individual who keeps his head despite Secret Secret’s rather turbulent live career). Recommended for fans of pop that doesn’t necessarily have to be Britney Spears.

Other songs worth looking out for that I recently saw the band perform live include the really cool Forgotten, the Violator sounding and beautiful Soul Reaper (the title may be a little metal sounding - but the song surely isn’t), and the boppy more upbeat Temple.

Review by Davi Lovatt

Secret Secret
San Francisco November 2001