Release Date: Oct 14, 2008
Record label: TSM
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Following the departure of guitarist Benjamin Curtis and the loss of their major-label deal, Secret Machines' third album is a refresher course in the delights of Texan space prog filtered through New York cool. Following the cocksure catchiness of Atomic Heels and Last Believer, Drop Dead, the mood slowly darkness and a gnawing insecurity seeps in between the epic riffs and textured psychedelia. The hunted rhythm and haunted vocals of Have I Run Out explode into all-out paranoia on The Walls Are Starting to Crack, which dives from the heights of synth-laden, Pink Floydian madness into pools of gently strummed acoustic guitar and cooing introspection, while Now You're Gone sounds like the welcome release of a long-held breath.
A new guitarist replaces one of the Texan brothers who founded the Secret Machines on their self-titled, self-released third effort Secret Machines. And squelchy synths add an unaccustomed industrial edge to the trio’s prog-psych swagger on single ”Atomic Heels.” Yet beyond that initial changeup, the new lineup and label haven’t noticeably affected their sound: They’re sticking with bloated track lengths and overblown lyrics. Thankfully, they haven’t lost their touch for thunderous rhythms or layered production, either.
Ten Silver Drops saw Secret Machines smoothing out the edges, to slightly decreasing returns. “Alone, Jealous and Stoned,” and “All At Once (It’s Not Important)” showed the brothers Curtis (and drummer Josh Garza) injecting their methodical space rock stomp with nuanced turns. But Drops’ standout was “Daddy’s in the Doldrums,” in many ways an extrapolation of “First Wave Intact.” It was loud, long, repetitive, hypnotic, simple, melodic, soaring.
Between their last album -- 2006's lackluster Ten Silver Drops -- and 2008's Secret Machines, the Secret Machines lost vocalist and guitarist Ben Curtis and gained ex-Tripping Daisy guitarist Phil Karnats. The switch hasn't done much damage to their arena-friendly sound, as Karnats favors the same mix of heavy riffage and noodly psych and Brandon Curtis handles the vocals with back-row projection and gusto. This is good news for fans of the slick and ponderous direction the band was headed in, but anyone looking for a move in a more interesting direction is out of luck.