Album Review: The Secret Handshake - 'Night & Day'

3 September 2010 | 4:01 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

You’re better off listening to those mentioned in the ‘for fans of’

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 Anyone remember that “Summer of 98” song from a few years back? That catchy-as-shit tune that you dismissed because you thought you were too crucial but secretly thought was sick? That was by a band, or to be precise a guy, who goes by the name of The Secret Handshake. Yeah so apparently the dude’s still around, and having ditched the scenester dance thing he’s gotten into Motown. He even toured Australia not that long ago (I know right, crazy shit!).

Unlike counterparts in the scenester electro/pop genre such as Hellogoodbye! who have successfully moved on to create pretty legit indie pop, The Secret Handshake seem pretty misguided in the broadening of their musical horizons. Like Throwdown’s transformation into a Pantera rip-off band or Ringo Starr’s solo career, this never really should’ve happened. The Secret Handshake have joined the ranks of Christina Aguilera and Guy Sebastian in slaughtering a genre that, whilst not necessarily for me, has way more integrity and authenticity than straight-up pop music.

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The music is essentially okay, featuring pretty standard features of the soul genre. Horns, strings and catchy guitar licks create a soundtrack which sounds like it was (maybe) written in the 1960s. It is however slightly too polished, sounds too much like it was done with a keyboard and Pro Tools, and of course isn’t original in the least. There is an element of feel-goodness and catchiness to the music, but its ultimately contrived and shallow. The real problem is the vocals, which lack the vital element of soul music. Soul. Luis Dubuc’s voice sounds too much like a whiney white-boy to pull off the music of massive voices like Aretha Franklin or Marvin Gaye.

Not to be lazy, but I don’t think that this album warrants a song-by-song account. Particularly cringe-worthy are the beginnings of “You Got Me” and “Here’s To You” in which Dubuc feigns an African American accent and says something astoundingly profound about the theme of the song. “You Got Me” even proceeds to use the phrase “love refugee”, ‘nuff said. Furthermore, “Magic” features some of the laziest lyrics I’ve ever heard, “I know that I’m not always cool, sometimes I can act like a fool”. But it gets worse.

I found the title of “Black Girl” embarrassingly untasteful but didn’t expect the lyrics it to be as strangely offensive as its title. “Black gurrrrrrrl! She’s the most b-b-b-beaufiful thing I’ve ever seen!” It doesn’t even rhyme! The album’s saving grace is “Used To Be Sweet” featuring the vocal talents of cute little thing Valerie Poxleitner aka Lights. The dual singing provides greater musical depth than the rest of the album, and for some reason this song was just less annoying. At the end of the day, any of these songs in isolation might have been okay or even interesting. Alas as the album drags on, you crave angry music more and more until you rip the CD out of the player, throw it against the wall and pump some Terror.

Now that I’ve gotten over my qualms about catchy scenester pop, I would’ve much rathered that The Secret Handshake had stuck to their old style. This album isn’t entirely bad, but weird and very cringey in parts. Like hip hop or reggae, soul is best left to the experts which for obvious reasons tend to be in the most part black. Ultimately this release is totally self-indulgent. This dude clearly thought he’d shock the alternative music world with his genius, but its all just a bit lame.

1. Every Single Time

2. Woman

3. Domino

4. Fresh Start

5. Magic

6. You Got Me

7. Stop! 

8. Black Girl

9. Is This Thing Through

10. Used To Be Sweet (feat. Lights)

11. Here's To You