“Modern Drummer”, off 2007’s Cry Baby, was Norway’s Ungdomskulen to a T: Hard hitting weirdo rock, delivered without a lick of self-seriousness, and with musical chops to take to to the bank. On their fourth (if you count 2011’s 10-songs-in-10-minutes micro-LP Gimme Ten) long-player, Secrecy, the edges are smoother, but the songwriting is more lean.
Mostly absent are the over-long prog-jams of their debut and its follow-up, 2009’s excellent-if-indulgent Bisexual. In their place are sparse, economical New Wave pop-leaning gems.
Album opener “Askefast” sounds like XTC & Yes collaborating on a long-lost James Bond theme song (instead of just holding up the end of my record collection, like they usually do.) Guitarist/vocalist Kristian Stockhaus continues to channel XTC’s Andy Partridge on “Young Hearts” and “Marilyn”, but the prog-rock feel is never far away, especially on album closer “Justify My Grudge”, which, like most of the album, interweaves earwormy melodies with air-guitar-worthy riffs.
If you’re looking for a gateway to the world of Norwegian prog-pop (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?) Ungdomskulen’s Secrecy is your huckleberry. Pick it up from iTunes, or in person from your favorite record store. ^Mike