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Secret Machines – Ten Silver Drops

Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops

I attended the Secret Machines’ show last time they came to Denver. I’m not sure how I ended up there; someone gave me some tickets or something. I didn’t really have any solid ideas of who they were or what they sounded like, but I figured I’d check them out.

For a band that I had only heard of in passing, they put on one of the most spectacular light shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to see U2. The light banks were enormous and I am fairly certain that each one cost more than I can make in a year. The amount of musical equipment and effects boards they had laying about the stage was shocking. More than once I wondered who was bankrolling all this. More importantly, I learned that the Secret Machines like it big.

If you can believe it, the band’s second album, Ten Silver Drops, is scaled back from the first album. However, it is still ripe with swirling guitars and spacey sounds. The problem is that the Secret Machines just don’t know what scaled back is. Why have a simple light show when you can have giant light banks designed to send the audience into epileptic seizures? The same translates to their sound and lyrics.

In the first song, “Alone, Jealous and Stoned” the Brandon Curtis sings breathily while managing to make his voice drip with emotion. It is so sincere, it can’t possibly be sincere. It is a caricature of sincerity. It is all so over the top it’s hard to swallow. I believe the acting equivalent would be referred to as a “ham.”

Contradictory as it may seem, just because it’s over the top doesn’t mean that it suffers from an excess of energy, but most of the songs just sort of hang there without delivering any sort of hook. They also lack any sort of coherency between any given song. It’s just a bunch of songs about stuff that they must be going through in life; they just must be leading boring lives.

“I Want To Know if It’s Still Possible” is what really kills the album. Taken apart piece by piece, the instrumentals could be good, but together it becomes too much. The lyrics and vocals are achingly bad, and once again they suffer from an overabundance of feeling and sincerity. “1000 Seconds” sings about a song that is 1000 seconds long; I was going to ignore the obvious joke, but I think it just made one all by itself.

After seeing their live show I was on the fence about Secret Machines. There was good and bad aspects, but they had potential. With the release of 10 Silver Drops, it seems they pursued their worst instincts. Maybe they should drop all the fancy equipment, work on the most barebones sound possible, and then build from there.

Reprise Records


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