‘Secondary’ put out second album

By Gus Bode

Secondary Modern: “Vanilla To An Englishman”

Overtly proud and sick of being called “British rock,” Secondary Modern took the chance to reflect its discontent with such a dapper label on its latest album, “Vanilla To An Englishman,” to be released alongside Josh Plemon and the Lonesome Drifters’ new album release.

The album – the band’s second since its conception in early 2005 – is a much more mature, though equally mellower collection of 13 tracks (12 complete songs, “I, Sir, Am Not An Englishman” is an intro track) recorded at MisunderStudio in Murphysboro.

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Though the trio – brothers David (vocals, guitar) and Danny Brown (drums), and Matt Slinkard (bass) – occasionally toss around fake British accents and have the piano and the unique, cleaner treble guitar sound that is most comfortably rooted in popular overseas English rock, the group hates being called British rock, and don’t prefer the next assumption, indie, either.

“If we were British and we were in America, we’d be a lot more famous. But if we were in England, we’d just be vanilla to an Englishman,” said David Brown, who sings the lead vocals and also plays keys (piano) and harmonica. Hence, the CD title was born.

Compared with “A Finance Opera,” Secondary Modern’s first album, “Vanilla” received a lot more thought and attention. Whereas the first CD was recorded in one weekend, which left little room for severe attention to details of the album, the band said the extra time allowed for more creativity to be put into the album, resulting in a much cleaner album.

As a whole, “Vanilla” is piano rock with an indie-pop vibe, showing off the energy of the band as well as the somberness of everyday life. “There’s not a lot of happy songs,” David Brown said. “We talked about that before, that maybe there’s not a lot of happy songs because I don’t have a reason to pick up a guitar, sit at a piano and write out a song when I feel really good.”

The album starts out with a lot of energy and tapers off with slower piano ballads. Brown’s vocals have become deeper and smoother, especially when contrasted with the piano, though at times it seems Secondary Modern sacrificed a lot of the climbing instrumentation that made its first album more pleasant to listen to.

Many of the songs take on an in-depth meaning, making the album worth listening to several times.

“We put a lot into it and I think it’s very good,” Danny Brown said. “I’m not being overly humble just to be humble. I think [people] should not just think of it as a local band album, because I think its every bit as relevant, or important, as anything else.”

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Slinkard said one thing he wanted to do was to have strings on the album, but the group ultimately decided the songs were fine the way they were.

“It’s a hassle to get strings together. Finding the people that we liked to work with, that we would be proud to have on our album, it’s kind of tough,” he said.

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