[17 May 2006]
Secret Machines has respectably graduated with honors from the school of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. The promise of the band’s 2004 debut LP Now Here is Nowhere hinted at this, and since the band has successfully synthesized the toughness of their “New York Sound” with the spaced-out energy of their past accomplishments and influences. Ten Silver Drops is the band’s logical next step toward the beginning-to-end killer record that is the Secret Machines’ destiny.
It’s no secret that this band takes influence from Krautrock faves Neu! as well as stadium-fillers such as Pink Floyd, but this product is one that couldn’t possibly have come to fruition without the existence of bands like Luna and the aforementioned Spacemen 3/Spiritualized to cushion these influences. On Ten Silver Drops, relished forms such as psychedelic drone and dreamy shoegaze intermingle in an accessible form with New Wave sensibility and poignant, simple lyrics. It’s the technical performance that’s stunning, though: “Alone, Jealous and Stoned” bleeds into a lackadaisical instrumental overture around the four-minute mark; the eight-minute “Daddy’s in the Doldrums” bass and drums battery power is simply throttling every time.
Those who love the queasy electronics of the Flaming Lips circa The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will appreciate the flares Secret Machines launches. The back-to-back “Daddy’s in the Doldrums” and “I Hate Pretending” are particularly stomping exercises in modern psychedelica, though Secret Machines leaves behind all of the cartoonish filler in lieu of an intensity comparable to Bowie’s industrial-age (think Outside) outbursts.
Secret Machines predictably bleed from arrangement to chaos in many of their songs, which begs the question of why they choose to feign structure when their strength is clearly corralling spaced-out instrumentals. Nearly every song receives the complete meltdown treatment, which is not to discount their structured arrangement, but something profound lies in the madness, something simple and true and innate; something that no amount of practice could provide without a certain kind of free-willed brainpower behind its creation.
Still, simple truths aside, Secret Machines’ songs wouldn’t be nearly as anthemic without their shoutable lyrics that beg for apathetic sing-along. There are small profundities that ring true out of these proclamations, lines such as, “It’s only love / That’s all / Just faded lines” (“Faded Lines”) and “If I were forced to choose / What I have, I have to lose / I need love / That don’t mean I need you” (“1,000 Seconds”). It’s not that the lyrics are bad by any means; rather, that their simplicity is overshadowed by the ever-present monolithic sonics of the album.
Ten Silver Drops is a record made for being played at extreme volumes. It gains a strange and soothing poignance coming too-loud from speakers threatening to blow. For all the appreciable chaos, by the time “1,000 Seconds” comes—the album’s peaceful closing track—Secret Machines is a band that deserves the tags it’s been given, specifically the ones that claim this is where Pink Floyd has led us, and perhaps that they are the future of accessible space-rock, especially considering the Flaming Lips’ poor performance on their most recent effort. Still, Ten Silver Drops stands on its own, feeding our fancies until Secret Machines kicks out that classic album we’re still waiting on.