Album Review :
Secret & Whisper - The Great White Whale

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Artist: Secret & Whisper
Album: The Great White Whale
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Buy It: Amazon/Amazon MP3
Reviewer: The Headless Horseman

1. Blonde Monster
2. You Are Familiar
3. Vanishings
4. XOXOXO
5. The Actress
6. Spider Besider
7. Looming Moon
8. Attacker
9. Anchors
10. Werewolves
11. Lovers
12. Great White Whale

There once was a band. They managed to put out a first release (an admirable feat in its own right). They got some notice, turned some heads, and started to gain some momentum. Then disaster struck: their lead singer departed the band. Discouraged, confused and unsure of their next step, the band took some time. Then they found another young man with the pipes to lead them to victory. Upon adding him, they were a totally different band, according to most, but nevertheless their subsequent effort turned even more heads and possibly even catapulted them to minor stardom.

As you, dear reader, have almost certainly figured out if you’ve even read the title of this review — I mean, it’s really that easy …

This band is Saosin.

Secret & Whisper sound a lot like them. In fact, it’s hard to oppose the claim that Secret & Whisper sound exactly like them on any real and objective grounds. I mean, sure, Charles Furney is slightly different sounding than Cove Reber, but I don’t think I could distinguish between the two on the spot, much as I insist there is a difference. They’re sort of like Coke and Pepsi. They’re both quite good — at least, in studio — but they’re basically the same, for all consumer intents and purposes. And while I think the instrumentation is a bit different (last I checked up on Saosin, they weren’t really as concerned with atmosphere as these guys, and they were a little more technical), if you played me instrumental tracks of each band’s next demo, I’m not sure I could tell you which is which. So yeah…they’re pretty much the same.

Except that these songs are better, in my opinion. From the sonic seas of intro “Blonde Monster” to resident ballad “The Actress,” Secret & Whisper set you adrift in their urgent melodies. They understand that the ambiance can make the song as often as not, and in these cases, they’re making it. They can also just flat out rock: “You Are Familiar” and sibling “Spider Besider” are face-to-the-wall mosh pit anthems that will surely cause even the most refined head to toss up and down vigorously a bit, while anthems like the infectious “XOXOXO” and even louder, even more thought-provoking, even more intense and even more musically interesting, “Attacker,” one of my favorite songs of the year 2008. I just played this song on repeat for an hour, and I don’t regret the loss of time in the least.

I could go on. “Werewolves” is an interesting try for the band, one that almost entirely succeeds, as they strip to piano, voice and stellar production. “Looming Moon” is one of the saddest, yet catchiest songs of recent memory, simultaneously brooding, driving and showing off Furney’s impressive pipes. But in a move totally unprecedented for your pal, the Headless Horseman, he’s gonna let you off this time without giving you an additional sixteen paragraphs. The fact is that the first three paragraphs probably told you exactly what this record sounds like. If you like that, this might be the best record that sounds like this. If you hate that, you can take the door marked “EXIT” here.

But one final word to Saosin fans who might be turned off: What’s the big issue? I really don’t understand your complaint. Yes, Secret & Whisper seem to have taken every single piece of musicality they have straight from blueprints with “Saosin” written across the top in blood and copyright symbols. I grant you that. But why does that make you enjoy this record less? Do you really value originality in your music? Think before you answer this. The truth is that if you enjoy practically any music being released today (or certainly the majority of music discussed on this site and those like it), the answer is no. Pop, rock, punk, pop-punk, hardcore, metal, indie rock…I mean, practically none of this stuff is new. People try the old with new stuff sometimes, but most of us seem to be agreed that Radiohead is the last band to make something they didn’t owe almost entirely to other bands’ innovations. Our age is one of building on the past, improving it, taking it to the next level.

Is it really so bad that Secret & Whisper sound exactly like one band? Would you rather they sound like a polite blender-full of practically every band? Many bands do…I mean, I’m practically willing to concede that many of Tooth & Nail’s other bands do and have pretty much since 1999. I don’t think that’s a mark against them; rather, I’d call it just a sign of the time. The choice you face is now this: are you really going to hold it against a young band, working together for the first time with (presumably) a new major creative force inside it, that their debut record focuses on making an old formula better?

I’m not.

Rating: 8.5/10. Very enjoyable, with fun musicianship and great production standing out.

RIYL: I really don’t think you need this section.

Standout Tracks: “XOXOXO,” “Looming Moon,” “Attacker,” “Great White Whale”