Without much warning, Krist Novoselic announced his new band 3rd Secret by releasing their self-titled debut album earlier this week (April 11). The former Nirvana guitarist confirmed that he was joined by members of Soundgarden (Kim Thayil) and Pearl Jam (Matt Cameron) for the project, uniting three of the biggest and most influential grunge bands to ever exist. With famed scene engineer Jack Endino also involved (he worked on Nirvana’s ‘Incesticide’ and Soundgarden’s debut EP as well as records by L7 and Mudhoney), on paper it seemed like 3rd Secret were the grunge supergroup of dreams.
The first track to their self-titled debut album quickly shatters that illusion, though. Opening with a cheery acoustic guitar, ‘Rhythm Of The Ride’ is a nostalgic folk song that sees vocalists Jillian Raye (who also plays in Noveselic’s other rock band, Giants In The Trees) and Jennifer Johnson offering encouragement and hope.
With lyrics such as “I know it’ll be just fine / so stay strong, my love” sung over pretty and delicate indie folk, the song is a world away from the aggression and despair that captured the hearts of an alienated generation in the ‘90s. It’s not even a playful bait-and-switch either; most of ‘3rd Secret’ follows this same, nicely meandering path.
Of course, there are moments where the grunge legends do come out to play. There’s the brooding swagger of ‘I Choose Me’ and the aching rock & roll theatrics of ‘Diamond In The Cold’. ‘Somewhere In Time’ features lyrical nods to both Alanis Morrisette and Christina Perri and Thayil manages to conjure Soundgarden’s stadium-sized power on ‘Last Day Of August’ with an acoustic guitar. For the most part, though, ‘3rd Secret’ sounds like these icons sitting politely around a campfire and jamming, rather than trying to relive their glory days or challenge their legacy.
There is a warmth to the whole record, with this group (rounded out by guitarist Bubba Dupree, who usually plays in hardcore band The Void) clearly relaxed in each other’s company. The result is a well-mannered, courteous record that feels like it’s constantly pulling its punches.
Lyrically, the songs traverse unrequited love, loss and pointed revenge, but with little bite. Musically, there’s not a hint of ego or showmanship across the project. When there is a flourish of rock’n’roll excess – see the solo on ‘Lies Fade Away’ – it’s utterly joyful but all too fleeting. Ultimately, the debut album from 3rd Secret sounds subdued and uninspired, two things that grunge never was.
Release date: April 11
Record label: 3rd Secret