The Dirty Secrets are from a long line of great Australian rock bands that begins with the Birthday Party and the Hoodoo Gurus and encompasses seminal misfits like the Triffids and perennial outsiders like the Go Betweens. Of course, that’s not to say that the Dirty Secrets (like, say, the Triffids) are the most Australian of bands or even the least Australian of bands; it’s just that one suspects them of harboring European aesthetic tendencies. And this is no bad thing: for anyone who associates Australia with Kylie Minogue and bands who sing about vegemite sandwiches, there has to be another way.
The Dirty Secrets are Jarrah McCleary (keyboards/vocals, Woody Taylor (drums), Warren Page (bass/vocals) and Mike Sanders (guitars) and their self-titled debut album is set to blow your mind apart. Produced by the band and Alan Brey (Dakota Star, Lumis) and recorded and mixed by Nick Terry (Klaxons, Libertines, Ian Brown, Franz Ferdinand), the Dirty Secrets might not have an outlook unique to their side of the planet but they certainly have a sound uncommon to their place in the world. Packing the angst of an Editors and the frenetic energy of a Killers, the Dirty Secrets is a record as good as anything the Bunnymen or the Teardrops delivered at the start of their careers and a record you’re going to play again and again.
The Dirty Secrets have already caused something of a fuss back home in Oz. In July last year the extraordinary Five Feet Of Snow (based on a true story about a guy pulling a girl out of a snow drift in Austria) started to receive a ton of airplay and led to a domestic tour with OKGO and a 22 date world tour that began at New York’s CMJ and took in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Manchester’s In The City and London’s 100 Club. The band then returned to Australia, delivered the killer track My Heart Is On Fire to radio and in December found themselves opening for Muse. Four songs into their set, a 10000 strong crowd surged forward and broke the punter barrier leading the whole show to grind to a halt. Subsequently, one barrier repair later, the band returned to the stage to complete one of their most legendary sets.
Earlier this year the Dirty Secrets released a third track to radio and within five weeks it had become the most played track on triple j. Lighthouse was inspired by Albert Sanchez Pinol’s Cold Skin (a band favourite) which concerns a man who gets stuck on a tiny island in the Antarctic and ends up making love to a feminine sea creature. Dark, gritty and intimate, there’s a haunting mania to Lighthouse and, indeed, many of the songs on the Dirty Secrets, something that is perhaps explained when you ask the band about their background. Lead singer Jarrah suggests that “the eye of a cyclone is dead fucking calm, then the next minute you got 250km/h winds blowing your mates tree into your lounge room. Our house was built on stilts because of the constant threat of being flooded. Every year our roads would get so flooded we would be trapped in town a few days. A mate of mine that lived a little further south in Katherine had a crocodile swim up and down his main street of town.” Bassist Warren grew up in Dardanup, a small and totally isolated country town in southwest Australia and he used to work in a local music store, drive for hours to play shows and then drive all the way back to be at work for 9 am. Somehow he found time to sell porn to make ends meet.
Standout moments on The Dirty Secrets include Overland Overseas, which is reminiscent of the Teardrops in their finest hour and White Lies and Thoughts and Considerations which recall the Skids and the Cure respectively if not respectfully. Another song, Strangers is not a million miles away from how the Manics might sound if they still cared and Devils could fuel an entire psychology conference. “My house had this presence that I could feel every so often,” explains Jarrah. “I didn’t get any voices in my head but I did see my television turn itself on and off regularly in the night. I thought I could perform an exorcism through this song.” Perhaps more poignantly he also says that “people change and so do their plans. It’s like the never-ending search for perfection that changes to imperfection when you learn that being human is the most real thing you can be.”