Bullette – Secrets


I was denied the schadenfreud I was expecting when Monika Bullette’s self-released debut began to unspool on the mp3 player. Smug in my renown as greatest music critic in the history of the world, I was prepared for a sub-standard effort from this currently unsigned Delawarean whose music had reached me via a solicitous e-mail arriving amid a heap of Viagra advertisements and pleas for cash from dubious entities with names such as “Expertise E. Peafowl” and “UNICEF.” But, once again, the capacity of ordinary, work-a-day people to remain undaunted and creative in the face of a suffocating world provides relief to that persistent feeling that we’re all just pawns in a game run by the likes of Clear Channel and Rupert Murdoch. Homogeneity and predictability be damned, right Monika?

Bravely choosing to make her music available totally gratis on her site and determined to chart her own way through the invariably corrupting maze of the music industry, Monika reminds us that any creative endeavor worth undertaking is worth doing for free. Which isn’t to say she shouldn’t cash some checks for her effort, but if your art can’t exist in a financial vacuum, on its own terms, it probably shouldn’t exist at all.

That’s an important and all-too-easy-to-forget sentiment, but one that would be a chore to support if The Secrets was a bore to listen to. It isn’t. Right from it’s opening songs – the crooked, crusty, catchy “Show Me” and the Syd Barret-esque ballad “Little Bird” – it’s clear that Monika Bullette is an inspired purveyor of psychedelic pop, despite the odd fact that her lengthy list of influences is decidedly light on the psych side. No matter, her seemingly voracious appetite for music and art (not to mention her decade-long persistence in the Delaware scene) makes one feel guilty for all that time spent just sitting around the house. And whatever artists she draws from come out sounding like the work of an individual.

But it’s still the unpredictable psychedelia of guys like Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean from 60s heroes Love that Secrets initially recalls, albeit a slightly more whimsical variety. Monika and cohort Hangnail Phillips (who helped pen the excellent “Don’t Start Believin’”) aren’t afraid to kick up some noise either, lacing many of these tracks with scabrous guitars, screeching violins, and a variety of odd sounds. Deeper into Secrets strange lullabies like “Uneasy” and the dreamlike “We Are Not From Sugar” tap different veins of expression. No, not every track here is a winner – could do without the P.J. Harvey sludge of “Lemonade” – but they are all driven foremost by a sense of exploration and experimentation.

Take advantage of Monika’s largesse and sample her wares yourself. Help her leapfrog the industry, strike a blow for creativity, and, if you can, slip her a few bucks.