Secret Machines Secret Machines(TSM) Buy it from Insound
So Benjamin, one of the Brothers Curtis, has left Secret Machines and their eponymous new album is a chance to survey what new direction the band is exploring. The last I heard of them, on their debut album Now Here is Nowhere, they had basically taken John Bonham and put him in Pink Floyd, and with some success updated a classic rock sound with decent songwriting chops that made this reviewer revel in some teenage nostalgia without feeling too guilty about it. On the new one, the drums still thunder and the space rock vibe is intact, but something is missing – and I’m not sure that something is Ben Curtis.
Underneath the Concrete, just to take an example at random, is a case in point. The song could have been lifted from the sessions for the first album, apart from a slightly more synthy edge to the guitars. But the hook is fairly uninspired, and the band works furiously to pump some urgency into the performance. This pattern is repeated again and again, with the band soldiering on despite the weaker material, and as a result the project is not a total loss, as fans of their sound can still find plenty to groove to. The Walls Are Starting to Crack is an extended piece that kind of works as it relies more heavily on milking their sound for all it’s worth. It even has a little Great Gig in the Sky homage tucked into its latter half, which I’d like to think shows a little sense of humor missing elsewhere. Unfortunately, the closer is a plodding pseudo-anthem that sends us away not wanting to hear anymore. What was it George Costanza said about leaving on a high note?
I’m not sure where this leaves the Machines, who can satisfy a niche for people who dig tuneful yet heavy rock grooves, if only they can get their writer’s cap screwed on a little tighter. This is one guy, weened on those early 70s jams, who’d like to hear them recover the mojo of their debut.22 January, 2009 - 15:48 — Alan Shulman