OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT – Understanding Electricity (One Little Indian)
London quartet Official Secrets Act have a mission to put indie pop back on the map, and this album is their first step to that end. From the band name, to their choice of song subject (‘Girl From The BBC’, ‘Victoria’) they are undoubtedly British, and the pop noise they make is refreshingly modern, but that does not make them a Brit-pop throwback. This band have tunes, harmonies, and a sense of fun, which is just what we need in the gloomy times. They open the album with ‘Mainstream’, which these boys most certainly aren’t, incorporating a chugging rhythm, chiming guitar lines, and a catchy chorus, and follow it up with another storming rocker in debut single ‘So Tomorrow’. The new single is ‘The Girl From The BBC’, and while the Futureheads inspired jerky pop gem is a fine choice for a single I think it is still too off-the-wall to see chart action. ‘Little Birds’ slows down the pace, but only for a while, as after the gentle acoustic intro the band kick in again for another fine rocker, as is the energetic ‘Hold The Line’. ‘A Head For Herod’ is where the band show that they can do more than just indie guitar-pop, being a slower song, but not really a ballad in the traditional sense. The vocal harmonies and simplistic backing give it an eerie feel, and this is the track that jumped out at me when I first heard the album, being so different to anything else around, including the other songs on its parent album. ‘Momentary Sanctuary’ heads off into another direction altogether, with its burbling synths over a throbbing bass-line it recalls early Pet Shop Boys crossed with ‘Knights Of Cydonia’. ‘Victoria’ showcases Tom Burke’s vocals to their best effect on this epic track, with more than a nod to the classic Wall Of Sound pop of the 60’s, but ‘December’ is another electro-pop track, only this time passing by without making a huge impression – but it is the first song on the album to do that. The album ends with yet another direction for the band in ‘Under The Flightpath’, with its yearning vocals, and the mix of smooth electro verses and power chords of the chorus verging on the progressive. This is an outstanding debut album for a new band, managing to take a tired genre like Brit-pop and overhauling it to give it a sparkle which I never found in the original. Add in the fact that tracks like ‘A Head For Herod’ and ‘Under The Flightpath’ could point the way to the band’s next direction then I am hoping for great things from them.
A Head For Herod