Desolation Town, is the debut EP from New York City’s The Secret History to be released by the Le Grand Magistery record label. The Secret History was formed in 2007 by songwriter Michael Grace Jr., best known for acclaimed cult indie pop band My Favorite.
The Secret History also features vocalist Lisa Ronson, daughter of Bowie guitarist, and glam-rock legend Mick Ronson. Le Grand Magistery is a label which has earned it’s reputation as a critics favorite by bringing artists like Stars, Momus, Baxendale and PAS/CAL to American ears for the first time.
The Secret History continues as a vehicle for Grace’s myth and monster laden song writing, which unfolds across cinematic landscapes…part New York in the late 1970s, part Sicily at the turn of the last century, part Nowhere. The sound itself, created by longtime collaborators Darren Amadio on guitar, Todd Karrasik on drums, Gil Abad on bass, and Kurt Brondo on keys, is a kind of continental art rock, combining the rainy jangles of C86, the stomp of glam, the innocence of the girl groups, and the anxiety of disco. Comparisons to Roxy Music, The Patti Smith Group, Felt and The Smiths scratch the surface. The words form the libretto of a mope rock opera, concerning the members of a fictional band called The Haunted Hearts. Their stories parallel Grace’s own, whose decade long relationship with My Favorite’s vocalist disintegrated in 2001, to be followed shortly after by the disintegration of the band… which had consumed his entire adult life.
Grace first met vocalist Lisa Ronson at an Irish speak-easy in the East Village called ‘The Scratcher,’ with the third verse of Dylan’s “Desolation Row” echoing through the bar (a moment referenced in the title of the EP) She was living in Chinatown, bookkeeping for the Museum of Modern Art when she answered an ad in The Village Voice seeking a “Female Voice/Tragic Cult Figure.” Her dad, Mick Ronson, was the greatest Spider from Mars (and producer on Lou Reed’s Transformer and Morrissey’s Your Arsenal), and that was tragic enough, but it was the voice...and everything desperate just under the surface of it... that convinced the lads. The addition of Erin Dermody, an ethereal young lady in dress, to sing harmonies, completed the new project. A sold out debut at Cakeshop (which Grace dubbed CBTweeB’s) was followed by shows alongside Love Is All, Boyracer, My Teenage Stride, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Dig and others. They also appeared at the legendary 40 Watt Club for the Athens Popfest.
The songs of Michael Grace Jr. have made fans of some of his favorite artists, leading to opening slots with Belle & Sebastian and The Magnetic Fields. Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople fame was seen tapping his foot at a recent performance, and Grace’s song “The Happiest Days of My Life” was chosen by Morrissey himself to be part of his pre-concert music in 2006 alongside his usual list of heroes and fascinations. But perhaps most importantly, his songs are included on mix tapes the world over by indie kids in the know, who wander into a dark, emotional universe that most of the mainstream music press has never glimpsed.