EP to be released by Le Grand Magistery, home of Stars, Momus, PAS/CAL and others. Record release party at Public Assembly in Brooklyn this Thursday night!
Desolation Town, is the debut EP from New York City’s The Secret History to be released by the Le Grand Magistery record label. The Secret History was formed in 2007 by songwriter Michael Grace Jr., best known for acclaimed cult indie pop band My Favorite.
The Secret History also features vocalist Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie guitarist, and glam-rock legend Mick Ronson. Le Grand Magistery is a label which has earned it’s reputation as a critics favorite by bringing artists like Stars, Momus, Baxendale and PAS/CAL to American ears for the first time.
The Secret History continues as a vehicle for Grace’s myth and monster laden song writing, which unfolds across cinematic landscapes…part New York in the late 1970s, part Sicily at the turn of the last century, part Nowhere. The sound itself, created by longtime collaborators Darren Amadio on guitar, Todd Karrasik on drums, Gil Abad on bass, and Kurt Brondo on keys, is a kind of continental art rock, combining the rainy jangles of C86, the stomp of glam, the innocence of the girl groups, and the anxiety of disco. Comparisons to Roxy Music, The Patti Smith Group, Felt and The Smiths scratch the surface. The words form the libretto of a mope rock opera, concerning the members of a fictional band called "The Haunted Hearts." Their stories parallel Grace’s own, whose decade long relationship with My Favorite’s vocalist disintegrated in 2001, to be followed shortly after by the disintegration of the band… which had consumed his entire adult life.
Grace first met vocalist Lisa Ronson at an Irish speak-easy in the East Village called ‘The Scratcher,’ with the third verse of Dylan’s “Desolation Row” echoing through the bar (a moment referenced in the title of the EP) She was living in Chinatown, bookkeeping for the Museum of Modern Art when she answered an ad in The Village Voice seeking a “Female Voice/Tragic Cult Figure.” Her dad, Mick Ronson, was the greatest Spider from Mars (and producer on Lou Reed’s Transformer and Morrissey’s Your Arsenal), and that was tragic enough, but it was the voice...and everything desperate just under the surface of it... that convinced the lads. The addition of Erin Dermody, an ethereal young lady in dress, to sing harmonies, completed the new project. A sold out debut at Cakeshop (which Grace dubbed CBTweeB’s) was followed by shows alongside Love Is All, Boyracer, My Teenage Stride, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Dig and others. They also appeared at the legendary 40 Watt Club for the Athens Popfest.
The songs of Michael Grace Jr. have made fans of some of his favorite artists, leading to opening slots with Belle & Sebastian and The Magnetic Fields. Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople fame was seen tapping his foot at a recent performance, and Grace’s song “The Happiest Days of My Life” was chosen by Morrissey himself to be part of his pre-concert music in 2006 alongside his usual list of heroes and fascinations. But perhaps most importantly, his songs are included on mix tapes the world over by indie kids in the know, who wander into a dark, emotional universe that most of the mainstream music press has never glimpsed.
About Desolation Town:
The lead track “It’s Not The End of The World, Jonah” (MP3) presents the shabby end of a hipster ‘belle epoch’ as an allusion laden night at the discothèque, where all memory and desire collapse. Driven by brittle funk and a dramatic trumpet break by frequent Arcade Fire member Kelly Pratt, the song becomes a vehicle for the longing and unease in Ms. Ronson’s voice, alternating in fits and starts. “Our Lady of Pompeii” meanwhile tells a tale of alienation from the perspective of an Iraq War soldier who leaves his girl and his rock n’ roll band behind to find dubious redemption in the dust of Fallujah. The drums and piano lock into a glam rock stomp that shatters the tune, and the protagonist alike. “The Ballad of The Haunted Hearts” somehow marries “Still Ill,” to “Like a Rolling Stone” in a Spector-esque slab of anthem pop. The psychedelic no-wave of “Obelisk,” leads right into the power chord and farfisa swirl of “Mark & John (Bring on The Glitter Kids.)” This live favorite turns The New York Dolls inside out, in a gothic meditation on the death of John Lennon and The New Testament. The ghost of Giorgio Moroder makes an appearance during the middle 8, but God fails to. The EP concludes with “Our Lady of Palermo,” a redemption seeking “lamentation” ballad in the finest 19th century folk tradition. The girls create a haunting harmony over accordion and guitar eulogy... part Gram Parsons, part Cocteau Twins. Grace transplants a depressive youth in Long Island to Palermo, Sicily… the tortured city of his great grandparents. The plaintive concession that “our dreams are wrong,” closes a chapter while opening up the narrative of what’s to come.
The Secret History Live:
11/20 Brooklyn, NY Public Assembly (Record Release Party!)
Artist: The Secret History
Title: Desolation Town EP
Label: Le Grand Magistery
Release Date: November 11th, 2008
Download the Promo Booklet HERE
01. It’s Not The End of The World, Jonah (MP3)
02. Our Lady of Pompeii
03. The Ballad of The Haunted Hearts
04. Obelisk/Mark and John
05. Our Lady of Palermo
Facts about The Secret History:
- This is the new project by songwriter Michael Grace Jr., formerly of acclaimed cult indie pop band My Favorite. Features most of the ex-members of the band, including guitarist Darren Amadio, drummer Todd Karasik, bassist Gil Abad and keyboardist Kurt Brondo
- Features the debut of vocalist Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie guitarist and Glam Rock legend Mick Ronson.
- This is the opening chapter of a mope rock opera concerning the fictional band "The Haunted Hearts," which is based in part on the disintegration of Michael Grace’s 12-year relationship with My Favorite singer Andrea Vaughn, and the eventual Fleetwood Mac-ish disintegration of the band.
- The Ziggy Stardust-esque “The Haunted Hearts” rock opera was already half written before daughter of actual Spider From Mars, Lisa Ronson answered an ad in the Village Voice seeking a “Female Vocalist/Tragic Cult Figure.” Destiny was not messed with.
- Michael Grace and his previous band My Favorite have received abundant critical praise in the music press, mentions in American Poetry Foundation blog, opening slots for Belle & Sebastian and The Magnetic Fields, were put on mixed tapes by Morrissey… are minor celebrities in Scandinavia…but remained unknown to most not wearing anoraks to bed. That should change with The Secret History.
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On The Web:
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The Secret History In The Press:
“This is music that matters to me. The songs have become requirements; Grace’s obsessions suddenly seem to have become mine. The alien, the girl or boy “differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility,” to quote Webster’s. This band reflects an amalgamation, of sounds and styles while all the while retaining an awareness of the awkwardness of youth. Each single track is better than most bands’ entire album.” – Ink 19
“This pristine, heartbreaking panorama of teenage wastelands past and future is no mope-fest: tight instrumentation and clever lyrics give it a near-lethal bite and snap.” – Gear
“When Belle and Sebastian recently performed in New York, the Scottish popsters specifically requested the presence of one band to open the show. Nope, it wasn’t Hall & Oates, but good guess. It was the Long Island ensemble called My Favorite. It’s really no surprise that Belle and Sebastian would be drawn to the chirpy pop melodies and dark, quixotic lyrics, and titles that could even make Morrissey smile...” – Boston Globe
Their “nostalgia for meaningful things,” which includes black anoraks and synthesized strings, creates enough distance from the music’s initial inspiration to block the pain and allow them to bask in the unmitigated joy of melodies well-delivered.” – RollingStone.com
“Stage noir with silent dialogue that tells you high school is death and pop songs are the afterlife. And beyond this, that pop music is a kind of purgatory truth: There’s no half-allegiances here--you were born to die a teenager. Be a ghost or be boring.” – Twin City Pages
“Poetic themes find their perfect companion in a glorious concoction of arching, melancholy synth lines, arpeggiated ‘80s guitar melodies, and wistful, cooing vocals. A loving tribute to fallen idols...” – The Big Takeover
“Songwriter Michael Grace delivers themes of isolation and alienation matched with upbeat tunes and sweet voices... creating a pleasantly ironic group of songs that suggest dejected suburban dwelling can inspire beauty.” – Boston Weekly
“If you don’t know every lyric to ‘Meat Is Murder’ or never patched a broken heart with ‘Disintegration,’ you’ll likely be mystified by the band’s dreamy teenage anthems. Those of us who fall into this category, however, will find it an blissful journey back into days that were anything but.” – Pitchfork Media
The greatest thing ever written about My Favorite can be found here in the influential music blog “The War Against Silence” HERE.