I had heard The Secret Machines have their name dropped a number of time in the indielitist circles of acquaintances I’ve met, but hadn’t gotten a chance to listen to them until I put on this disc. Very open, spacey guitars open the first track, “First Wave Intact”, and while the track nearly ends at the nine-minute mark, The Secret Machines are no more the worse for wear. The drums on “First Wave Intact” are not the most innovative, owing more to the fill-in variety seen on Bright Eyes’ “Lifted”, but do fit well regardless of their changing the world. Rapidly falling into a more chaotic state towards the end of “First Wave Intact”, The Secret Machine open up “Sad and Lonely” with a very Placebo/U2 sounding vocal inflection. Moving into a much more radio-friendly for the aforementioned track, The Secret Machines show that they can successfully intertwine an electronic base with a traditional rock track without losing audience from either group.
Moving a little farther into pretension with “Leaves Are Gone”, The Secret Machines finally get back into a more rock-like tone with “Nowhere Again”. The sweeping tones that are expounded on from the earliest strains of the CD come back in full force for “Pharoah’s Daughter”, a nigh-6 minute epic that is chock-full of layers. Perhaps these more experimental tracks are what The Secret Machines do best, as their obvious Pink Floyd influences come to light, and do so in such a way that they are not manifested in a way any other current band has seen. For example, Coldplay unabashedly sullies the good name of Pink Floyd by meshing them with Dave Matthews and every other two-bit adult contemporary hack, but The Secret Machines incorporate the more art-rock side of Pink Floyd, not just “The Wall” and “Dark Side of The Moon” .
The line between solid musicianship and pretension is a very thin one, and The Secret Machines are thankfully on the solid side of things. However, there are some moments, especially in the piano-led opening to “You Are Chains”, in which any desire to be musically sound is superseded by the desire to impress through unapproachably random compositions. The Secret Machines are the modern day U2; espousing change and virtuosity without just going for the most obvious and marketable sound (unlike U2 at the current period). A buffet of a disc, on which everyone will find something to like.
Top Track: First Wave Intact
The Secret Machines – Now Here is Nowhere / 2004 Reprise / 9 Tracks / http://www.thesecretmachines.com / http://www.repriserecords.com / Reviewed 24 September 2004