REVIEW: Free Candy sweet outside, bitter within
No amount of sexy name, boppy songs, marching band costumes, tooting horns, fuzzy bass and bloopy old Farfisa organs can hide the fact that the Wet Secrets is a damned dark band. Their new album Free Candy might give sensitive listeners the urge to slit their wrists – if it weren’t for all the delicious melodies.
Out Feb. 4, Free Candy is a confectionery Trojan horse loaded with depression, alienation and despair. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no God, no afterlife, no hope. Now let’s dance and make love like there’s no tomorrow! Because there isn’t!
It happens that the band’s drummer Trevor Anderson is a noted filmmaker who once made a short about suicide on the High Level Bridge, and so the first single Nitelife gets a slick music video treatment starring the one and only Joe Flaherty as his famous vampire Count Floyd (with Mathew Hulshof, above). In a lively song about the tedium of nightclubbing long after the blush of youth has worn off, the washed-up vampire – and he’s not even a real vampire – is seen attempting to fit in with modern world. He winds up biting another fake vampire in the neck after the guy, falling down drunk, pees on his shoe. Dude had it coming.
Poor Count Floyd isn’t having any fun at all – not in 2014, not in 1954, not in 1914. The dance goes on, and there he sits. He is an immortal undead. Vampire stories rarely explore this topic: How do vampires deal with the crushing weight of the eternity of time and all the trivial day-to-day activities therein? Do the undead ever get bored? The video, shot in black and white, is hilarious – lots of nods to the old SCTV bits – but the message is grim: When you’re tired of the party, you’re tired of life. Please pass the razor blades. It can’t be coincidence there’s another track on the album called Death of the Party.
Equally powerful, like a punch in the stomach, is the album’s closer, What’s the Fucking Point? (Zenko’s Theme), a haunting tribute to the late Darren Zenko, a local writer and artist who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 38. Wet Secrets vocalist Lyle Bell sings of a good man raging against the unfairness of it all, bringing it home with the line, “Save your strength to roll your eyes one last time.” The song then plays out a jolly melody to the end.
Between these poles of gutwrench and heartbreak are tunes about the end of love, about the true ugly nature of humankind, about the absence of an invisible man in the sky who loves us and watches out for us. Ha! The bitter truth – as the Wet Secrets see it – is rendered with all the sweetness and light this unusual group of musicians can muster. If the Apocalypse ever needs a house band, this one would at least make it fun.
The Wet Secrets will perform its album release show on Friday, Feb. 28 at the Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre.
(Photos by Fish Griwkowsky)