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Secret Syde - "Hidden Secrets" (LP)

Secret Syde - "Hidden Secrets" (LP)

Price: $175.00 currently not available     
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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Hidden Secrets
Company: Mutha
Catalog: 007
Year: 1983
Country/State: Long Branch, New Jersey
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: --
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6141
Price: $175.00

These Jersey guys frequently get labeled as punks, but that's really a mischaracterization of their sound and attitude.

Formed by Long Branch, New Jersey high school friends, the original Secret Syde line up featured the talents of drummer Rob Angello, singer/rhythm guitarist Jon Davies, lead guitarist Steve DeVito, and bassist Lou Mazza. Before the band went into the recording studio Mazza was replaced by Dave DeSantis. The band's mixture of punk angst and more tuneful influences including conventional rock and psych influences won them a small but loyal following on college and the Jersey shore club circuits.

In 1983 they signed with Mark Chesley's Mutha label, making their LP debut with "Hidden Secrets". Produced by Chesley, the first couple of times I heard this album I thought these guys sounded like a bunch of R.E.M. wannabes who were also Anglophiles. Jon Davies clipped vocals bore more than a passing resemblance to Michael Stipe and the band's blend of punk and jangle pop moves sure reminded me of early Peter Buck and company. Mind you, that comparison wasn't meant as a criticisms since all seven of these songs were tuneful and interesting. While there were no writing credits, Davies apparently wrote the bulk of lyrics with the other members contributing to the music. Thematically tracks like 'I'm Alone' and 'Hurt and Pain' offered up a pretty catalog of teen angst topics, but these guys backed it up with energy and surprising musical competence.

- A great jangle-guitar rocker, 'A Hole Where a Pocket Should Be' underscored the R.E.M. comparison with DeSantis stealing the show with an amazing hyperactive bass pattern. Would love to have heard this one in a small club. rating: ***** stars
- Opening up with more DeSantis lead bass, 'I'm Alone' sounded like something that had been lifted from a John Hughes flick (think Pretty In Pink). Yeah, the lyrics weren't going to win anyone a Pulitzer, but the music was highly effective and I love the harmony vocals at the end of the song. Great track ... rating: **** stars
- 'The jittery 'Hurt and Pain' has always reminded me of a Velvet Underground track, though on this one DeSantis' prominent bass was almost a distraction. rating: *** stars
- Opening with a cool bass and jangle guitar refrain that had almost a martial feel, 'Versailles' clearly demonstrated the band's ability to incorporate a commercial element into their sound. Every time I hear the 'la-la-la-la' chorus I smile. **** stars
- The album's most psychedelic performance, 'Moonlight Marine' opened up with some slashing atmospheric guitar and lysergic bass before Davies kicked in with his best faux-British accent. It was interesting for awhile, but after a couple of minutes, wore out its welcome. **** stars
- 'Moonlight Marine' morphed into 'Drury Lane' and found the band apparently trying to sound like The Smiths. Frankly it didn't do much for me .... ** stars
- Kicked along by some DeVito buzz saw lead guitar, the first part of 'See Through Your Mind' was about as poppy as a punk band could get (again meant as a compliment). The song then sort of disintegrated in a mixture of feedback, oddball sound effects, and other studio weirdness. Again, the song quickly wore out its welcome. *** stars

For an album that was certainly recorded on a shoestring budget, these guys clearly had some major talent. Shame they never could get their act together in order to attract backing from a label with deeper pockets.

"Hidden Secrets" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) A Hole Where a Pocket Should Be - 2:482.) I'm Alone - 3:44
3.) Hurt and Pain - 3:58
4.) Versailles - 4:01

(side 2)
1.) Moonlight Marine / Drury Lane - 14:252.) See Through Your Mind - 6:51

In spite of active touring, including opening slots for the likes of Black Flag and the Joe Perry Project, the album did little sales wise in the States, though it somehow managed to attract considerable attention in Holland and the UK. That overseas attention saw the band return to the studio recording material for a planned sophomore album - "Erebus". Unfortunately personality clashes, musical differences and the usual problems with alcohol and drugs apparently intervened and the tapes were shelved when the band called it quits in 1985.
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