Secret Smoker – Dark Clouds (Belladonna Records, 2019)

Secret Smoker are from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dark Clouds is their second LP, which follows their debut, Terminal Architecture, which was released via Protagonist / Adagio830. This is I suppose what I’d term “proper emo” in the traditional sense, although the label website describes them thusly: “Raging post-punk/revivalist hardcore akin to 400 Years, Sleepy Time Trio and Hoover.” Realistically, either works.

The first time I listened through this, I was immediately reeling off the names of friends who were going to love it. Like, for ages. Every time I hear this record, I feel like I’m being transported back in time to my first exposure to proper emo: which was 21 years ago. September 1998, at the Night & Day Cafe in Manchester seeing Braid, Burning Airlines and Spy Vs. Spy. That’s a few weeks shy of 21 years ago. There’s a scary thought. But… the sounds of that time in that kind of arena are kinda timeless.

This rich tapestry of E-mo-shun-ul Hardcore is finely woven indeed. Secret Smoker succeed in bringing a huge sound that drives the hooks home hard like Red Hare, Bluetip, Crash of Rhinos, Rites of Spring et al. Yet also manage to encapsulate the more meandering, mathy sound of the likes of Faraquet and Algernon Cadwallader for example. And these 12 songs, well not a one of them exceeds the 3 minute mark, ensuring a concise and impactful delivery leaving no time whatsoever for self-indulgence or pointless navel gazing.

If any of the above mentioned bands are your trip, then you’ll be wanting to get on this ASAP. Likewise if you dig on Bob Tilton, The Little Explorer, Minus The Bear, Policy of Three, Red Animal War or any of that caper. It’s absolute gold, this. Tony of Nurgle rating: 10/10

The 1st press of 200 clear and 100 clear w/blue splatter vinyl is available from the Belladonna Records webstore

Tony of Nurgle is a true child of the North, recently returned to Yorkshire and residing in Leeds (after close to a decade living in exile in Croydon and South East London). He used to co-run a specialist record store in Manchester (Roadkill Records), and also several years as a promoter, and put on shows for the likes of Leatherface, the Loved Ones, Lucero, Minus The Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, Spy vs Spy, Latterman etc. He also spent several years DJing at shady rock clubs in Manchester, and started the infamous Thursday night "punk room" at Jilly's Rockworld. Also responsible for Middle Finger Response, and collaborated with a couple of friends on a monthly night called Refuse to Lose, which will still occasionally reunite the original DJ line-up - next event at Retro in Manchester on 07/09/2019. Apart from that, it's all bitterness and a jaundiced view of human nature, occasionally skateboarding, always exhausted, often reading books with maps in the front.

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