Pocos discos son tan claros a la hora de entenderlos como este tercer disco grande de la banda de Bristol Secret Shine: The beginning and the end (2011). El primer corte se encarga de dejarnos bien a las claras qué nos vamos a encontrar: In between comienza con un largo prólogo con sintetizadores a toda leche, los cuales dejan paso a unas guitarras convenientemente distorsionadas y unas voces etéreas que evocan a gentes como Muse o Trembling Blue Stars. Perfect life lima un poco las asperezas guitarreras y se centra en los ambientes Dream-Pop, que es la tónica que vamos a encontrar durante la mayor parte del disco (Every thought, No more inside, Windmill hill, Touching nothing…). Aunque lo más interesante nos lo vamos a encontrar con Round around, un temazo que se inicia con introducción electrónica pero que se adentra en un mar de acordes menores y unos arreglos orquestales impresionantes: el Dream-Pop quintaesenciado. Una maravilla de canción que tiene continuación en Hole in your heart, que aunque tiene una atmósfera distinta, posee ese mismo encanto hipnotizador: las guitarras y las voces casi perdidas del dúo Kathryn – Dean hacen el resto. Es el tema que más les acerca a la atmósfera Shoegazer, ya que The beginning and the end es un disco puramente Dream-Pop, de melodías nostálgicas, voces etéreas y ambientes claroscuros. Un buen disco.
“The members of the long-running, Bristol, England-based band Secret Shine have created dream-pop perfection since the early 1990s. This winter brought the release of their third studio album, The Beginning and The End, another masterfully-crafted dream-pop album replete with the band’s signature sound of dreamy, driving guitars (courtesy of Scott Purnell and Dean Purnell), memorable melodies, and high-altitude male and female harmonies from Dean, Jamie Gingell, and/or Kathryn Smith.
Synth-based sonics are also incorporated in the mix (expansive, sustained keyboard notes, soft woodwind accents, orchestral strings) which fully flesh out the songs. The straight-forward, heartfelt lyrics about love, life, and loss highlight a year of highs and lows for the band members, with the bleak to bittersweet lyrics sung in a plaintive, sweetly despondent to yearningly hopeful tone.
Album opener “In Between” begins on a grand, synth-driven, Muse-like note, and then surges into a propulsive, but dreamy drift of distorted guitars and Kathryn’s Lush-like, ‘fallen angel’ wordless vocals. A constant march of drums and cymbals push Dean’s vocals as he intones “In between the start and the end / we live this life again and again.”
“Perfect Life” radiates a bright, but melancholic pop vibe that is reminiscent of recent tunes by a-ha and Pet Shop Boys. The brisk, but smooth flow of perky electronics, subdued horns, clacking handclaps, and Kathryn’s airy vocals all accompany Dean as he sings in a breathy, regretful tone that “…growing old / when the door is closed on her perfect life / She is dying inside.”
The brief, change-of-pace “Run Around” is a study of contrast with its light, but pummeling beat pitted against mournful, drawn-out orchestral strings and acoustic guitar refrain. Vocal lines from Jamie run in tandem as he remorsefully sighs in a muted tone “You just bring me down / when you run around.”
“Every Thought” is vintage Secret Shine with a twist. The hallmark chiming guitar swirl, anchoring low-end bass, thumped drum pattern, and introspective vocals are all present, but there is also the inclusion of electronic tings and woodwind notes. A vulnerable Jamie wistfully and sweetly sings “Are you taking me over? / Are you watching me fall / into your arms again / then I feel nothing at all.”
The highlight of the album is the catchy, uplifting-in-melody, but depressing- in-lyrics “Hole in Your Heart”. This is the closest Secret Shine comes to a straight-up pop song and it’s brill – and just a bit left of the pop center. Liquidy, percolating synth notes and swirling guitar distortion mix with low-key orchestral strings and woodwinds. Kathryn leads it off on the verses, singing in a girlish tone until Jamie’s submerged vocals float by. The captivating chorus quickly takes over with male and female harmonies, as Dean sings in a richer, deeper, almost Dave Gahan-like tone, the cuttingly spot-on lyrics “You tore us apart and left me this way / and I cannot find all the pieces again / Now I can see that right from the start / where love should be you had a hole in your heart.”
Clouds crowd the horizon of “Touching Nothing” with its measured pace, extended pulls of sonorous strings, echoed tambourine hit, guitar chime, and Kathryn’s Lush-like, sky-high sighs. Dean’s vocals are clear and plaintive, with a touch of pained hope, as he reveals “You take away my pain / You take away my hate.”
Album-ender “Trying to Catch the End” starts off slowly and unassumingly with a stately pace of drums, tapped cymbals, starry guitar chime, and soft vocals from Jamie as he admits “I cannot breathe / I cannot sleep / cos I’m thinking of you with me.” There is a sudden lull of silence that is broken by a massive chorus of burgeoning, sky-scraping guitar grind and brightly shining, ascending synth notes that bring to mind the best of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, as Kathryn and Jamie declare wishfully in unison “For you” (adequacy.net)