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The Secret Handshake
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Drums that sound straight off Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack? Check. Guitar solo that harkens back to Uncle Jesse from Full House? Check. Tambourines? Check. Fade outs on nearly every song? Check. That nagging feelings that it’s 1995 and you need to hurry home in time for The Wonder Years? Check.
The elements that comprise The Secret Handshake’s new album, My Name Up In Lights, aren’t complicated or out of the ordinary. Instead Dallas musician Luis Dubuc has built a collection of songs that embraces an unabashed pop sensibility, drawing on the ‘90s to inspire the disc’s feel-good energy and playful mood. The record follows the success of The Secret Handshake’s previous album—2007’s One Full Year—with more streamlined intent and clarity of vision. “My first record was 14 songs and it was all over the place,” Dubuc says. “It was like looking in my brain. It was full of ideas and all the songs sounded different. This record is really narrowed down. It’s really influenced by Family Matters and Step By Step and the Ninja Turtles and Len and Spacehog and awesome ‘90s radio music. I just narrowed all those influences down and put them into a record.”
Dubuc, who started The Secret Handshake in 2004, began writing songs and compiling demos for a new album as soon as he finished One Full Year, eventually ending up with nearly 60 songs to weed through. Once he had selected the 10 strongest tracks, Dubuc sat down in his home studio to record in December of 2008. Instead of enlisting a producer, like on the last record, Dubuc played, programmed and recorded the entire album himself to ensure that his vision achieved reality. “I wanted to do this record and have it be 100 percent me,” he explains. “I didn’t want anyone else to have input. I wanted to just do it. No one could stop me from doing anything.”
That included the addition of what Dubuc terms an “Uncle Jesse guitar solo” at the end of album standout “All For You,” a charming, hooky pop song that showcases Dubuc’s penchant for memorable, sing-a-long choruses and bouncing synth beats, and references to nearly every ‘90s TV show on the fun-loving “T.G.I.F.” Other instant classics on the disc include “Saturday,” a prancing number that proclaims happiness, and “Forget Parents,” a song that successfully employs a tambourine in excess. “I think it’s a serious record, but it’s fun,” Dubuc says. “I think every record and every band has a place. I think this record falls into that space of having fun with your friends or driving around.”
My Name Up In Lights showcases an impassioned, enthusiastic musician who has found his voice and his inspiration. And for Dubuc, who tours with a live band to flesh out his electro pop sound onstage, that inspiration just happens to be largely drawn from movies like The Wizard and ‘90s radio hits like “Steal My Sunshine.” If anyone’s going to bring back ‘90s pop and legitimize it, it’s Dubuc. “I hope people see it for what it is and love it and appreciate it,” he says. “Sometimes people say their record was really hard to make because they were going through something, but this record was easy to make. It was all me and I didn’t have to try and do anything. I didn’t have to try and be something I’m not. It just came out. If anything, I just want people to appreciate it. It’s not a hard record to grasp. I made a record for people like me, for my fans.”
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