Secret Machines

Now Here Is Nowhere

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The Secret Machines aren't breaking any new ground on their debut full-length album, Now Here Is Nowhere; instead, they mix up elements of the last 35 years of rock history like the driving rhythms of '70s German rock, the sprawling guitar textures of late-'60s and '70s British psych, pounding drums lifted off of Led Zeppelin II, the expansive textures of arena-friendly '80s groups like U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen, and the aching indie rock vocals of the '90s -- basically the same template as the Flaming Lips circa 1993, early Mercury Rev, the Verve, or mid-period Ride. In fact, some of the songs are so indebted to their influences ("Sad and Lonely" is pure Led Zep from the kick of Josh Garza's drums to Ben Curtis' very Plant-like vocal, "The Leaves Are Gone" is pure Flaming Lips with Curtis' open-hearted and breaking vocal sounding like Wayne Coyne with pitch, and "Nowhere Again" is a dead ringer for a track on Mercury Rev's See You on the Other Side album) that it takes a healthy dose of suspended judgment to let the songs sink in and begin to work their magic. It is worth the effort, too, because there is some magic to be had here. What makes the record good is the level of dedication the bandmembers throw into their work, the lovely walls of sound they build on each track, and most of all the sense of untrammeled joy they infuse their music with. Tracks like the sprawling opener "First Wave Intact," the drifting "Pharaoh's Daughter," "The Leaves Are Gone," and the poignant ballad "You Are Chains" are the work of a band in love with sound, both volume and texture, and a band with the melodic sense to make their atmospheres more than just pretty sounds. By the end of the last track, the epic "Now Here Is Nowhere," the Secret Machines have proven themselves as worthy heirs to the indie rock tradition that the Lips and the Rev established so well. Now Here Is Nowhere isn't on par with either of those band's best work, but it is a promising beginning and -- more importantly -- an intriguing and exciting listen.

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