Live at Leeds Metropolitan University on Saturday, 1st April 2006
Punk was a reaction against the excesses of the 70s music scene. Songs tripped out, ten, fifteen minutes long. They called it prog (as in progressive) rock. So why do Secret Machines, who along with The Mars Volta are tagged as modern day prog, now seem so fresh?
Tonight they take the stage, backlit, flooded with white light reducing them to silhouettes. No image here. The Met is at perhaps two thirds capacity, still a more appropriate expanse for their epic sound than previous visits to the claustrophobic Cockpit. A bigger venue but the buzz has faded, moved on.
It's nine o'clock. Some are caught out at the bar, the suggested Special Guests non-appearance making a fool of any latecomer. They begin with "Alone, Jealous and Stoned". Though the sound has changed somewhat, the live experience is still all about the pounding drums.
The new album opener segues in to "Road Leads Where It's Led", perhaps the pinnacle of 2004 LP "Now Here Is Nowhere". (Blowing all the other kids away/ With all your charm). The band now bathed in red. There's a casual nihilism in the lyrics that echoes around your head. Makes connections, resonates.
Vocals are shared between the two brothers, guitarist Ben Curtis and sometime keyboard player, sometime bassist Brandon Curtis. The keyboards are slightly too low in the mix, lost at times in a sea of guitar. Some people dance, fists are raised aloft, most do the standing still.
They play some more new stuff. Average song length increases. Time passes. Lots of time.
The encore hits. "Pharaoh's Daughter", a slow dirge on record but perked up here, followed by "Nowhere Again" and "First Wave Intact". The older tracks are now polished and finessed, whereas the delayed release of new LP "Ten Silver Drops" meant this was a first chance for me to assess many tracks. Though with some rolling in at what seemed like twenty minutes I wasn't exactly having to make a snap judgement. They sounded good.
Secret Machines are an album band. They create a mood. They don't do ringtones. They don't sell a look. They're not cool any more. Can you handle that punk?