The Secret Machines - Secret Machines, The
Matt Harrold 27/10/2008
The Secret Machines do bombastic, epic tunes. Fact. They also managed to make it OK to like prog rock without having to grow a beard, smoke countless comical cigarettes and pretend it's the 70s. Admittedly they didn't always get it right, for every propulsive 'First Wave Intact' there seemed to be an anti-climatic 'Now Here is Nowhere', a song that managed to meander it's way into the next ice age. But they also proved that they had an ear when it came to taught, propulsive kraut rock tinged pop, and second album '10 Silver Tear Drops' took sheen of neo-psychedelia sheen and amped it to the Las Vegas Casino strip to produce tunes like 'Lightening Blue Eyes' and 'Faded Lines'. Sadly though neither of their first two albums managed to sell, and so in 2007 they found themselves unceremoniously dumped by 679 records. A second, and arguably worse blow came with guitarist Benjamin Curits up sticks, concentrating on his side project School of Seven Bells instead.
So devoid of a record label and a man down what is a band to do? Get a new guitarist in the form of Phil Karnats and put out a third, self titled album on your own label of course. Though whether it was worth the effort is debatable. The Secret Machines have tried too move with their sound - the 80s Bowie stomp of 'Atomic Heels' is catchy enough, as is the New Order meets Can sound of 'Underneath the concrete' in all it's new wave synth glory - but ultimately both are caught short, finally falling to the dark side of prog. Maybe it's the loss of Ben, or maybe one too many listens to Black Mountain's 'In the Future' but the leash on prog's self indulgence is off. 'The Fire is Waiting' is a behemoth of a track, an atomic Pink Floyd on steroids that duly clocks in at 11 minutes.
Though it's a damned site better then the fuzzed up synth of 'Have I Run for It' noodling it's way into the middle of nowhere, slowly. A track so likely to put you to sleep that the NHS are thinking about testing it as an alternative to anesthesia. It really is prog-rock wankery of the highest order. But the worst atrocity sitting amongst a rather mixed affair is 'Now You're Gone'. Your not supposed to take your influences from Snow Patrol, not if your wanting to put together an exciting, interesting album anyhow. Sure, go ahead if your wanting to land some promo slots on the like of Virgin Radio, but come on Secret Machines, we expected better from you. Not this sub par ballad dross that doesn't have half the hooks of 'Chasing Cars'.
No, it's not their best album, and whether you like it or not is going to come down too the following: Your ability to love prog rock or your ability to get really, really wasted. See 'Secret Machines' smells a lot like a band burnt out from too many drugs, and too many upsets. Sure there's moments that remind you of their brilliance, but they're out weighed by the pomposity, self-indulgence and a lack of pacing. Ultimately, a disappointing affair.
Release date: 14/10/08