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The Secret Machines - Secret Machines CD (album) cover


The Secret Machines

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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4 stars Driving music... Not necessarily music to drive by, more music that is driven by a proliferation of thumping drums and bass lines. This is drum and bass the way it should be! Played loud it becomes an entirely different beast and aficionados of noise will be in raptures!

Secret Machines is the eponymous 3rd album by the New York via Texas three-piece. It is full of something the first two albums seemed to be lacking in - confidence. I wondered if the departure of Ben Curtis, the band's lead guitarist and brother of Brandon - the singer and bass specialist - would have a detrimental effect on the band's style. I conceded very quickly that the band is better off without him: it was like Brandon was being held back by his brother's presence.

Secret Machines appears to be the most easily accessible album by the band so far; there are at least three tracks that stands out as potential singles (!) and there's a carefree ambivalence about middle eights and choruses and most tracks. This album is also heavy on influences; you can detect Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rush, Zep and you detect that Curtis and Brandon Mason (the producer) are adding a lot of modern influences into the production, shades of Charlatans, Flaming Lips and Bloc Party surface in places, but don't ever seem out of place.

The album opens with the obvious pop song - Atomic Heels. A song which lyrically could have been written by Neil Peart and musically played by Bowie produced by Visconti circa 1979. It's a rousing anthemic single, which had it got any radio play in this country (the UK) might have made some impression. Last Believer, Drop Dead is an interesting take on religion, with Brandon suggesting that religious faith is dying and one day there will be no more believers. It's almost a jolly song and its tempo belies the hidden depths of the words. Have I Run Out balances subtlety with aggression. Underneath the Concrete could almost be the weakest track on the album if it wasn't so damned catchy. Now You're Gone is an excellent love song, beautifully layered and expressive. The Walls are Starting to Crack is, in my humble opinion, the toughest and most inaccessible track on the album and quite possibly the most obviously prog. It starts off innocently enough but by the 4th minute its avant garde before entering into a Dark Side of the Moon crescendo that saves the song from being a mishmash of styles bolted together. I Never Thought to Ask is a real stand out song, despite it being the slowest on the album. It is hauntingly atmospheric and has some effects in it that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Plus it has some of the most beguiling lyrics you will ever hear - filthy hammers crashing down anyone? The Fire Is Waiting continues a trend started by Nowhere Again from the début album, a monstrous track, sprawling some 10 minutes, with a crashing opening, thunderous guitars, booming keyboards and a rousing chorus - as progressive a track as you will hear all year.

The Secret Machines class themselves as Progressive Big Beat, a term I've never heard outside of their own MySpace page. They do indeed have a massive beat and lovers of quality prog, layered sounds, good tempo and weird lyrics will be impressed by this band's output. Rick Wakeman once commented that these guys could be the future of prog rock; he might be right.

Report this review (#195051)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Secret Machines is a band that I only know by this album. I got introduced to their music a few years ago by ways of a very haunting track called "I never thought to ask" on a Sampler CD in the German Rock Magazine Eclipsed. This album also was featured as the "Album of the Month" in this issue of Eclipsed. I never thought to ask has that multi-layered, spacey, floating atmospheric sound one finds sometimes in the productions of Daniel Lanois (U2, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, etc). The track can be described as "Daniel Lanois Sound XXL", and me as a big fan of that certain "Lanois sound" was immediately convinced to get this album.

The rest of the album has a similar atmosphere although a bit more toned down in terms of effects. The songs are more straight forward and catchy but maintain a sound and feeling which sets them apart from most mainstream music. Apart from the outstanding I never thought to ask, the last track, The fire is waiting, will probably convince most prog fans the most. An eleven long musical journey that rolls out of speakers like dark thunder clouds approaching.

This is an album which shines in terms of its sound and atmosphere. Musical virtuosity is not the focus here. The vocals of Brandon Curtis fit the music very well. He has an extremely pleasant warm sounding voice which contrasts the rather dark sounding music. Tracks 1 to 6 all deserve 4 starts. Tracks 7 and 8 are 5 Star candidates.

Report this review (#860118)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 31st May, 2021: Secret Machines - s/t (alternative rock, 2008)

The term "underrated" has become a bit meaningless these days, but I'll throw it at an album like this. Not only are Secret Machines themselves underrated, as a beautifully creative band merging the post-punk revival indie rock scene with Floydian space rock and pseudo-krautrock rhythm, but this is underrated within their fanbase too. These songs are as catchy, groovy and hypnotic as the first two, and "The Walls Are Starting to Crack" may even be their best song. The use of pulsing 4/4 grooves and occasional big choruses are the real strength here, it's so refreshing to hear an indie rock group with such a grasp of rhythm-based interplay.

7.6 (6th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog -

Report this review (#2695050)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2022 | Review Permalink

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