The organic nature of The Secret History pokes around delicately and wiggles its way into perception just like our most bizarrely candid thoughts do.
Formed out of the remnants Michael Grace Jr.’s My Favorite, this New York City band has captured the incompleteness of youth and has put it in a bottle to save the pieces. It helps that Lisa Ronson, daughter of Mick Ronson, fills out the group, as her angelic, rich tones offset Grace Jr.’s straightforwardness almost out of necessity.
With their debut LP, The World That Never Was, The Secret History manages to avoid indie music clichés with vigor and, instead, charges headfirst through the exuberant, wonderful folly of youth. The songs are energetic and, more importantly, honest.
That’s not to say that songwriters Grace Jr. and Darren Amadio simply take the quickest, shortest path to the goal, however. These are complex, winding tunes about life, runaways, God, ghosts, nightmares.
Like all good pop music, The Secret History walks the line between easily accessible and thought-provoking. The World That Never Was ends up being a little like cracking open a stream of consciousness-laden diary, then, with all sorts of different shards of thought and meaning sprinkled through these easygoing, sociable tunes.
And like all good pop music, The World That Never Was is an elegantly human album. With fresh pop hooks, spacious guitar and glowing vocal harmonies, The Secret History’s first LP is one with beauty and simplicity pouring from its chords.
Magic happens all over this record. Whether it’s the soft burn of the album’s “Love Theme (From The World That Never Was),” pieced together lovingly with the impeccable vocal mingling of Ronson and the spectacular Erin Dermody, or the airy “doo-doo” of “Our Lady of Stalingrad,” The World That Never Was presents a worldview that is both pleasant and disarming.
References to Bela Lugosi melt with a glossy guitar riff on “Count Backwards (Rock ‘N Roll Never Dies)," boosting the band’s rock pedigree while putting those luscious harmonies front and centre.
Other songs come up more on the pensive side, like “How I Saved My Life” with its offering of abrupt statements like “Coca-Cola everywhere but not a drop to drink.” Then there’s the beautifully jubilant confession of “My Life with the Living Dead,” complete with Ronson’s recalling of a life of experiences and of dreams and of, yeah, regret. “I took a job at a factory when I realized that you were not coming back to me,” she sings.
Accessible, affectionate, sincere, amusing, appealing, and spellbinding, The Secret History’s The World That Never Was sums up youthful exuberance and existence with its 12 songs. The experience offered by this record is a rare one and it demands to be savoured, probably with a Coke or two.