Continuing the trend of rock and metal bands spelling their names incorrectly, Sek’ndhand Smoke are here to rock with their self-titled EP (2010). According to their bio, they play “simple, no frills, rock and roll”. The band has extensively toured throughout Oregon, California, and Washington, and they’ve also built a following through promoting their Youtube videos. With hard rock influences like Guns n’ Roses, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, we can expect nothing less than an unpredictable, dangerous outing from this rock trio.

Starting with “Ambivalence”, right away it’s clear that the production is subpar, and you can even hear the bass levels clicking. Often. Sometimes subpar garage recordings work well for rock music, but in this case it just sounds like the guys should have definitely gone to a better studio to capture their sound. The guitars are muddy, and this is typical of cheap demos. Zachary Dunlap’s vocals are definitely inspired more by glam rock and hard rock than by emotionally charged grunge acts like Nirvana. The issue is, he doesn’t currently have the range to tackle this style of music. What you get in the end sounds like karaoke, with the vocals being frequently out of key, and the screams and wails adding more awkwardness than intensity to the songs.

Of course, rock is a safe haven for the tone-deaf. However, the unspoken rule is that you have to compensate with swagger and charisma, and it’s not here unfortunately. “Bitter” opens with an old school inspired punk rock guitar riff but doesn’t really go anywhere when it could have been an anthem for the left behind. The high screams at the end show the band starting to gain some steam.

“It’s Gone” tries a different, more bluesy approach, but the musicianship and vocals hold it back once again. The attempt at emotional lyrics comes across as disconnected, and the extra “ay-yay” at the end of every other line brings extra layers of cheesiness to even the album’s ballad. Then there’s the line “What does it matter if it’s go-wa-wa-wa-one?” “R & R” ups the ante and the tempo, but none of the elements are working here. All elements are subpar, and it inevitably makes for an unsatisfying final product.   “Riding Free” offers a bit more consistency in both the playing and the vocal range, and shows some potential if Sek’nd Hand Smoke were to write a new batch of tunes and record a stronger release.

Sek’nd Hand Smoke’s self-titled EP is rife with issues. The playing sounds amateur. The vocals are both cheesy and out-of-touch. The recording sounds amateur. The songs are typical and predictable, and not dangerous in the least. If there’s one sin in rock n’ roll, it’s to remove the danger and make it safe. Sek’nd Hand Smoke may be a decent pub band, but they have some serious practising to do before they impress the world on record. Respect goes out to the band for trying, but this is not ready for mass consumption.


[Rating: 2/5]


  1. Stacy
    February 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    i gave Riding Free a listen. not bad at all. sounds like some song from the seventies! production could be beter, but not bad for a first effort. i think the band needs work, but they are pretty good. much love

  2. Treve
    February 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Yeah, I think you were a little harsh James. I read lots of your reviews and you seem to either nail bands to the wall or praise them like they are the second coming. I saw these guys live three times and I loved their live shows. Their guitar player kicks ass and is a damn good showman. Zachary, the singer, has got some good pipes, but anything he lacks in skill he makes up for with his stage presence. I bought the ep when it was released on iTunes and I was quite pleased with it. It’s a demo really, so you can’t expect them to sound like some super polished band recording at Sony’s studios. I’ve listened to that album hundreds of times, and for the life of me I can’t hear the bass levels click. So you either of have superhuman hearing or you’re wrong. Or maybe I just don’t pay attention to that. I think it’s kick ass hard rock. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s perfect, Nirvana wasn’t perfect, Jimi wasn’t perfect. It’s just rock and I think Sek’ndhand kicks ass. Keep rockin’ boys!

  3. Chris
    February 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I listened to the album and I disagree. Yeah, you can tell the production isn’t top of the line, but this is a five song demo, so that’s too be expected. The band definitely has some growing to do. I think the vocals are strong for the most part, although some of the screams are off-key and kind of take away from the quality of the music. I actually appreciate that he doesn’t sing in the completely expected way. You say there’s no danger or risk, but here he is singing like a glam screamer to grunge, punk, and blues. I think there’s a lot of risk in that and it’s respectable. The drums are very straight-forward, but super solid. The guitar really brings everything to life and it’s that driving power chord chug that you would expect for punk or grunge. The bass is there, but I would have like to hear more change ups and embellishments. Still, it’s a solid bass line, it just kind of follows the guitar track and never ventures far from that.

    I especially liked R&R and Riding Free. Real good, simple, hard rock. R&R really reminded of that early Nirvana feel. And Riding Free to me sounded like a hair band anthem. Room for improvement? Sure. But cut them a break, James. This is good stuff from a band out there trying to carve themselves a piece of the pie. You say there’s nothing dangerous about this album, then you go on to say how they should have stuck with the status quo. Which is it? I think they did a good job. Sek’ndhand Smoke, there’s room for improvement so keep at it, keep writing and don’t listen to critics like James who only tell you how they think it should be. Cheers.

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