Album and Concertreview – The Secret Love Parade, Paradiso 14th of February 2012
You have to be an absolute killjoy to rain on The Secret Love Parade. They’re so young, adorable and full of likeable musical ideas. Plus they’re from Amsterdam and are signed to the up and coming indie-label Snowstar, which recently surprised us with an excellent debut by LUIK. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by young, adorable creatures with likeable musical ideas for a large part of the day, making me virtually immune to the cuddle-factor that Janna Coomans and Aino Vehmasto are so richly endowed with. What remains is a third album that shows great progress and does in no way deserve to be showered in critique; a slight drizzle for further encouragement is quite sufficient.
Listening to The Secret Love Parade reminds me of an upsetting remark made by a critic in the late Vinyl magazine way back in 1983. The reviewer wrote that Aztec Camera’s second album Knife gave him a pretty good idea what a soporific affair sleeping with front man Roddy Frame must be. (I was at an age when listening to records was an almost erotic experience, or to be honest, when everything felt like an erotic experience). For me to speculate about the in-bed performances of Janna Coomans and Aino Vehmasto, based on their music, is wrong on so many levels that I will limit myself by saying that orgasms are overrated anyway.
On Valentine’s day Coomans and Vehmasto presented their new album, titled Mary Looking Ready, to a nearly sold-out upstairs hall of the Paradiso. Even though mostly friends, family and industry-folk (and that amateur photographer that looks like Kees van Kooten and appears to be living in Paradiso) populate the front rows, it seems that The Secret Love Parade have build up an impressive local fan base. We are treated to two eager and energetic tweeners playing a not-so energetic set.
The Secret Love Parade are creators of naïve melodies, processed into typical singer-songwriter structures and propped with retro-synths. When carefully executed, the result is moving in an almost Dadaistic way. The album versions of songs like NYE, Second Thoughts and The Victorians Are Here have a simple charm that makes me think of Telephate, Beach House and most notable Dutch 80’s singer and composer Fay Lovsky. It’s a delicate balance though; too often does the naivety of their tunes lose it’s appeal and sink into infantilism. Songs like Leggy Blonde, Our Lucky Girl and After School have highschool bandcamp written all over it. It’s not what you’d expect from a recording act that’s been at it since 2007.
Back in the Paradiso, The Secret Love Parade are having a great Valentine’s day performing the new songs, alongside a few older ones and the odd cover (Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain) to an ecstatic audience. Only a Killjoy would hear that the synths are a bit sharp and the singing is sometimes sloppy and that Coomans and Vehmasto manage to circumnavigate most every hint of excitement. Even a song like Plastic in Plastic that sounds thrilling and forcefullon on the album, both musically and lyrically (‘If there’s any good in us, there must be good in me’) does not climax in Paradiso. Only a Killjoy would note that synthpop did establish itself through the creation of curious counter melodies, not through doubling the vocal melody, like The Secret Love Parade like to do. Everytime I think that something arousing is going to happen this Valentine’s eve..it’s not. And I’m left wondering whether Janna Coomans and Aino Vehmasto are still in the process of learning or that they enjoy being professional teases.