This Secret Machines article was written by Ellie Scott, a GIGsoup contributor.
Originating from Texas, USA, Secret Machines were a three piece rock band consisting of Brandon Curtis (vocals, bass and keyboards), Benjamin Curtis (backing vocals and guitar) and Josh Garza (drums). The band described their sound as space rock, but the psychedelic influence of groups such as Pink Floyd and Hawkwind can be clearly heard, edging it towards the progressive rock/shoegaze category.
Released in 2006, ‘Ten Silver Drops’ is a mere eight tracks long, but each track is one of substance. The material for the album was test driven live, then refined lyrically and musically based on the audience reaction, before being committing to vinyl. It’s an album that doesn’t rush. It requires serious listening, but is all the more rewarding because of that.
Album opener ‘Alone, Jealous and Stoned’ is a mournful picture of an unhappy, confused character, who can’t quite work out what went wrong. “Must have lived so long with covered eyes, when did you say goodbye?” Amidst the various miserable drug references in evidence on this album is the joyous – ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’, released as a single, is the most upbeat and commercial song, and earned them an appearance on Top Of The Pops. ‘All At Once’ has a positive galloping drum beat which belies the break up nature of the lyrics. At over eight minutes in length, the pivotal track is ‘Daddy’s In The Doldrums’. A somewhat plodding beat (to match the depressed Daddy) builds tension as the vocals intensify. “Where were you?” this unreliable man is questioned in an accusing tone. It’s almost five minutes before the guitar gears step up and drive home, ”With each step she took another nail driven in building her wreck.”
In truth, every track has something to admire. The rock tempos connect across this body of work, building resonance, and the synth sprinkles are added judiciously to make them sound more 1980s than 1970s.
There’s a sad end to the story in that Benjamin Curtis left the band after this album, going on to form School Of Seven Bells. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and died at the age of 35 a year later. The band recorded a further album, the self-titled Secret Machines in 2008, but the lasting feeling is that they never quite achieved the recognition they deserved for the quality of their material.