This album is a great teaser for future gems.
Keira Burgess 2009
Secret Machines make their comeback with a record at once completely theirs and excitingly evolved. Hanging on to their likable and familiar indie rock traits and developing challenging new ones, they have - with evident awareness - made a brilliant mixture from the two.
The New York based three-piece have lost a member since their last foray into the album world. Guitarist Benjamin Curtis parted ways with the band in 2007, shortly after the release of their second record Ten Silver Drops. His brother, the multi-tasking bassist, vocalist and keyboard player Brandon Curtis stuck with drummer Josh Garza and enlisted former Tripping Daisy bandmate Phil Karnats to complete the line-up which would produce this, their self-titled third longplayer.
The arrival of Karnats may well have been partly responsible for the change in the direction on display here: Curtis has declared all three of the band equally responsible for their musical output. Secret Machines is a darker, more experimental album than its two predecessors, perhaps revisiting the style Curtis and Garza dabbled with in former project Captain Audio.
The album eases into those changes gradually: Atomic Heels opens with distorted riffs and lurching drumbeat, but maintains that typical Machines pace while also injecting something of the sinister. The following Last Believer Drop Dead and Have I Run Out also stylistically resemble the material of the previous two albums, providing a linear transition between Secret Machines old and new.
That transition really kicks in with Underneath The Concrete, with its synth-driven, 80s electronic motif which alternates between sparse, minimalist verse and stomping chorus. The Walls Are Starting To Crack references the band's more abstract and progressive influences, with a soundscape interlude full of fluttering drums and an interesting mix of acoustic and electric components.
The collection ends with The Fire Is Waiting, an 11-minute barrage of musical layering at one moment comfortably listenable, the next complex and demanding. It is a fitting end to an album which seems to possess a clear linear pathway, gradually transforming the Secret Machines sound beneath the listener's ears. As well as being an accomplished work in itself, this album is a great teaser for future gems.