- The Secret Machines
- Now Here Is Nowhere
- May 18, 2004
Five minutes into our drive to Coachella, the red "Check Engine Soon" light not only came on, but began blinking rather frantically. My sister and I eventually found alternative transportation, but by the time we arrived at our destination we had missed most bands save Radiohead. I love you, Thom.
Ahem. Another, more valid, highlight of the concert was all the free CDs promoters passed out. Most were recorded by fledging hopefuls attempting to establish a fan base, but a couple were done by the professionals. The one that has stayed on my constantly rotating playlist is a promo compiled by Filter Music. They included big names like PJ Harvey and Modest Mouse with potentials such as Bumblebeez81 and Angela McCluskey.
Thus I was formally introduced to Secret Machines' irresistible zinger, "Nowhere Again". This is appropriate, because after listening to their first LP, Now Here is Nowhere, numerous times, this song sums up the band nicely. I am not attempting to convince that it's the strongest or bestest track of the bunch, but it contains the elements that make Secret Machines a clever little band.
"So, what are these elements?" you, the aware reader, ask me. Well, for starters: their rich, full sound. Whenever I read about Secret Machines, the reviewer always seems impressed that the band consists solely of three members. We've got the brother vocalists, Brandon and Benjamin Curtis, with one on keyboards and the other guitaring it. Josh Garza on drums completes this threesome. There is also a man-behind-the-curtain: co-producer Jeff Blenkinsopp. His wizardry in post-production helps fill in the vast landscape of their songs with dreamy ambience.
The trio obviously enjoys a little play on words in their songs. I personally wouldn't call this a concept album, yet images and ideas from their lyrics flit amongst the songs. As "leaves from modern trees/rest on walls like these," in "First Wave Intact", the mood sobers down two tracks later when Curtis laments that "the leaves are gone" to the background of a thrumming guitar and soft drumbeat.
Their closing song, "Now Here is Nowhere," introduces a quiet melody in which the two brothers harmonize beautifully. They subtly blend their lines together, creating a musical image to pair with "as morning light bled/burned out daylight/over glass white plain." I had been listening to this pleasant harmony when four strong drum beats suddenly forced me to surrender attention to what was about to take place: the hook present in its counterpart song, "Nowhere Again," revisited with an astral twist. Magnificent.
There is a weakness found throughout the album when its members decide to take it down a notch. Secret Machines pay homage to Pink Floyd, Neil Young, and My Bloody Valentine, yet their ballads ring a little too closely to Phil Collins. This is not always the case, as "Now Here is Nowhere" demonstrates. However, "Pharaoh's Daughter" and "You Are Chains" presents a weakness in their musical ponderings. Luckily the two songs are grouped together for easy skipping access.
When I reflect on the last words the Curtis boys sing, "all this time/all this space/all these words," I have to agree. Perhaps Secret Machines would like us to believe that the journey they take us on leads to nowhere. But as I listen to the last quickly stuttering beat fade down slowly and quietly into silence, I know I sure as hell enjoyed the ride.
- Jessica Mattila
- First Wave Intact
- Sad and Lonely
- Leaves Are Gone
- Nowhere Again
- Road Leads Where It's Led
- Pharaoh's Daughter
- You Are Chains
- Light's On
- Now Here Is Nowhere