The Secretaries (Simmerdown Productions)
By: Alex Steininger
A six-piece from Columbia, Ohio, The Secretaries combine an 80's British power-pop feel a la The Jam with semi-traditional ska beats. The outcome is a unique ska sound that fits evenly next to the ska/R&B category as well as in the third wave label, yet doesn't really belong in either.
"Unmarked Number" instantly lets you hear what their fusion is all about, as the drums quirky beats shake the song up a bit. The horns flow through the beginning to help distinguish the music from a power-pop number, while the vocals help add a light soul feeling to the music. The guitar tries to mimic its Jam influences while also trying to keep an upbeat present and send you dancing. It takes a few moments, but it successfully works. The whole song has a hip shakin' rock n' roll feel to it, while also burning a mid-tempo ska beat that, after awhile, has no trouble keeping you dancing.
As for lyrics, "Straight Man" has to have some of the best lines on this disc. Funny, yet serious, this love song puts the listener on the side of the singer, while also offering up a few laughs. "You have no idea about how it feels to play the second fiddle, when the first one is out of tune," quickly put a stunned look on my face. While I was listening to the disc for the first time, I hadn't looked at the song titles, and for some reason this line made me sit back and chuckle. Although the song is as serious as any love song can be, it's just flashes of humor (whether they meant it like that or not) like this that kept this song stuck in my head.
"No Chance In Hell" serves up more of their 80's British/ska fusion together in a mid-tempo number that stings and dances across your stereo. Enough tempo to make you get up and move, you'll find the energy level steaming, making the song hard to resist. There will be parts where the upbeat just isn't there to dance with, but when it is you'll know it and quickly pick up on it.
Showing just how bouncy, fun, and catchy they can be, "Professional Criminal" brings the pop to life, while still keeping the crunchy rock-meets-ska feel. Irresistible, the chorus jumps out at you and taunts you until you jump head in and sing along. So bouncy and enticing, you can't help but shake your body and move while you're singing along. Easily a leader in fun content, this will appeal to pop fans as well as fairly traditional minded ska fans.
Ending with "Steppin' Out," the band almost seems to have lost it on the closer. But, within a minute they're back to their crunchy ska beats, sending you dancing while also getting you to shake along with the drums (which are truly the life and blood for the music).
With ska hitting an unoriginal period in its life, The Secretaries seem to be one of the few un-established (read: baby bands) to come out in the ska scene as of late with something new. Crunchy and danceable, they seem to know how to mix and match their influences well. I'll give this disc an A-.