HAPPY TOWN SOUNDS - Sekret Sekret (Feelpresents)
Hindsight usually makes things clearer through the rear view mirror. If Sekret Sekret had a bemused contempt for the Detroit-sired bands that occupied Sydney live music venues in the early '80s and the leather-jacketed hordes that followed them like lemmings, then the feeling was mutual. Having seen them live, these guys were way too fey for mine.

Many years on, I can now appreciate Sekret Sekret's genuine attempts to do something different with roots in punk but influences from altogether more pastoral psych/English freakbeat places. While "Girl With a White Stick" and "New King Jack" were very good singles (the latter groundbreaking in its violin and guitar instrumentation) was there enough other material to push out a compilation to two discs? Maybe, on the strength of this.

Thanks to onetime radio bastion of the Sydney underground, Double Jay, and its FM alter ego Triple Jay, there's a good spread of previously unreleased material with a third of the 32 tracks coming from their live vaults. For the balance, compilers Tim Pittman and (bassist/guitarist) Des Devlin have turned up some half-decent quality cassette live recordings, the odd demo and the four single releases.

When a going concern, Sekret Sekret never released a full album. Maybe the process itself might have focussed their attention and produced something in the ilk of the second wave of New York underground bands. David Virgin's understated vocal still sounds like Richard Hell Lite crossed with a less self-absorbed Tom Verlaine. If the rest of the band were weaving sounds a lot less serrated than the Voidoids or the early, primal Television it's probably a measure of who they weren't influenced by.

If I'm probably still carrying a bit of ingrained bias against that so-called "Chicken Wire Fence of Sound", but the letdowns on Happy Town Sounds" are the sometimes ill-defined production values and some forgettable songs. But let's not be too hard: Sekret Sekret was swimming hard against a king tide and moving quickly. If they didn't sound like Cold Chisel or Air Supply, let's give a vote of heartfelt thanks and remember that Australian bands on the inner-city circuits at the dawn of the '80s were lucky to get within earshot of a decent studio, let alone commit sounds to tape inside one.

So I'm speculating what might have happened if some light-handed career assistance had materialised from a fellow outsider like, say, Lobby Loyde who might have tightened the songs and crystalised the more distinctive parts of their sound. Then I'm thinking who really wants help when you're letting it all out creatively at age 20. having a blast with all sorts of legal and illicit ingestions and making better than busking money (ie living at the subsistence level) because people are filling small sweaty rooms to hear you?

There was a Facebook group comment that without Sekret Sekret there would have been no Church and it's at least partly right. The Church ploughed a much tidier field but both bands were trying to make a mark through atmospherics and aural textures rather than kicking in the front door.

There's a certain historical worth to these recordings but it's more than academic to hear future Cruel Sea leading light Danny Rumour mixing it up with fellow guitarist Des Devlin in the latter-day line-up. And of course Jim Elliott (drums) and Ken Gormley (bass) went on with Rumour to the Cruel Sea, so Sekret Sekret was nothing if not an invaluable training ground. - The Barman