Before independent labels copped business models and started acting like scumbags – not all of ‘em, but you know if you’ve screwed someone over – the early ‘80s laid waste to band’s dreams. Releasing a record, at that point, was tantamount to a bloody political coup. However, after a full length was released, its success was basically dependent upon the band doing enough leg work to get the nation abuzz about it. And again, Black Flag would easily be the best example of this. They encompassed all aspects of the indie music biz back in the ‘80s. Unfortunately, while Black Flag may have presented a valid model to follow, there were probably less than ten other outlets that ended up being as successful as SST and the hardcore group.
Mutha Records was one outlet that followed this model. And while the folks that ran that label aren’t millionaires at this point – or even well remembered – they were able to release a number of singles and full lengths including some work from Child Abuse and Chronic Sick. And amidst the work released between 1982 until sometime in the early ‘90s, a few slabs were recorded by the Secret Syde. Even though the second full length didn’t see the light of day, that first album by the New Jersey natives, Hidden Secrets, is sought by collectors willing to shell out some ridiculous sums of money.
The band broke up after a brief period of activity during the mid ‘80s, reformed in 2000 and are set this year to officially re-release their lone, proper album. That act though, predicated upon the ridiculous bidding wars over their work, won’t assuage collectors. After all, those original discs are still pretty scarce.
The way by which The Secret Syde made their name though, in addition to opening a few dates for the aforementioned Black Flag, was their live show. It apparently sported the Go-Go Slutz, who reportedly put on a “live sex lesbian psychedelic act.” And while any of us can imagine that in some way to our liking, I hope they don’t get the same girls when the band’s slated to perform again this year.
But listening to Hidden Secrets twenty five years after its initial release, one can hear a band only so subtlety copping some British attitude. Not just based upon the vocal performance by Jon Davies, but his guitar as well as Steve Devito’s. It would be too much to say that they’d been aware of Spacemen 3 seeing as that band had barely begin at the time these folks were recording, but the tremolo on each and every guitar riff has similarities to those Brits. The music, apart from that finds the band pushing the tempo towards punk territory, but not quite getting there.
The disc, overall, doesn’t really surpass anything outright from the period – although, the previously mentioned Psycho Daises are unquestionably their peers. Most tracks sound pretty similar, with a notable drum faux pas on “Hurt and Pain.” And while there aren’t any blatant missteps, I’d be a bit reticent to shell out seventy bucks for a copy.