Secret Tombs is what happened when your dad, in a desperate night of trying to reclaim his lost youth, got stupid drunk on a 30-rack of Busch Light and ended up puking his guts out all over his record collection. The Pittsburgh trio contains, at varying times, tracers of many vinyl heyday hallmarks: the snot rockets of proto-punk, the puffiness of arena rock’s cock, the cocaine eyes of glam. The cherry on top of every whiff ‘o the past is a loathing and distancing gaze that is more easily comprehended than it should be–this self-aware music knows we humans are all worthless. Unlike much retro-sounding music, Secret Tombs is neither aping nor ironic, but rather reanimated by the past as some horrible Frankenstein come alive to make rock formidable again.
The band recently put its entire discography on Bandcamp in anticipation for a new tape, The Seeker, and an upcoming tour. Birthed as early as 2009, there’s about an hour and a half’s worthy listen available for those craving some prime riffage set amidst swirling Yinzer ennui. The hallmark of their output thus far is Secretly Yours, their operatic full-length in six movements. Ben Klahr’s voice throughout is grimy but limber in its ascensions, and his guitar follows suit through some furious fret finger-banging. In counterpoint to Klahr, Andy McDonald’s bass noodles along, like an inquisitive child always playing catch up, in turn thrumming out an entirely new melody. Dave Rosenstraus, as the straight man, keeps it in check with robotic, but thundering drumming. The music is purposefully dissonant and messy so that whenever they all sync the fuck up, like on the coda to “II: Confrontational Love”, it blows the roof of the shitty dive bar in which you just spent your entire paycheck.
One second Secret Tombs sound like Big Star and in the next they are Motorhead. In that way, the closest comparison to another band working today is to Harvey Milk, the long-standing chameleon outfit from Ohio. Both possess an acutely acerbic sense of humor that they pepper into the power of shifting and shuffling through genres, both unafraid to drown the listener in dawdling noise just to amp the pleasures of a hard part hitting that much harder.
I’ve seen these guys in various basements in and around Pittsburgh, and that’s the way to do it. With a little luck, you’ll leave sweaty, beer soaked, and with ears leaking puss. They are hitting the road in November, so if you are on east coast/mid-west, check them out, because, to leave the last words to one of their song titles: “When It Comes to Rock ‘n Roll ([They] Don’t Fuck Around)”.