The first thing you notice is the violin. It saws out high and lonesome and earthy above the rumble of bass and drums. And then you’ll realize this is more fiddle than violin; it’s American-sounding, raw and sonorous, resonating deep into the ground, past the roots of trees, sighing up to shoot holes in the clouds and drifting back behind mountains. It’s the sound of train-tracks, of boots caked with mud and farmhouses and factories and hard life in big cities.
But this isn’t country or Americana; it’s punk—lean, engaging, minimalist punk songs topping out before the three minute mark. There’s some Raincoats vibe, a little Intima, a touch of ESG and Unwound, but with dub, soul, and afro-beat influences it becomes a whole new animal, a refreshing, absorbing, exhilarating living creature, brand-new for a new struggling world. And the joyous spirit of Fela Kuti is right there switching beats alongside Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Pacific Northwest’s best DIY originators; the past is there, but it is in no way nostalgic. Ghosts notwithstanding, The Secret Life, the New Bloods’ Kill Rock Stars debut, is a focused, concentrated full-toned shot of 2008.
Since their first band practice in March 2006, the three ladies who make up the New Bloods have dropped jaws and touched off unruly, spontaneous dance moves across the dark and drizzly basement/house party landscape of Portland, Oregon. Now with The Secret Life, they’ve shone a new light that won’t be put out.
Adee Roberson’s ominous new wave/tribal drums, Osa Atoe’s sky-rising violin, and Cassia Gammill deep-shifting bass, turn songs like “Day After Day,” “Oh, Deadly Nightshade!” and the propulsive title-track into hard-packed anthems of empowerment and intense personal experience. And they sing—all of them, each totally defined and original voice tangling and crying out with the rest, shouting and proclaiming, harmonizing, singing brave and true and clear-eyed.
The Secret Life is 11 tracks of message, voice, and good-times party delivered deadly-earnest. Hear them sing. See their lanterns shine…