Secret Machines

    {grate 3.5}

    Lack of an original title doesn’t always mean lack of original material, as Secret Machines’ eponymous third album proves. The band’s newest effort combines conventional rock sensibilities — high-powered guitars and heavy bass lines — with their trademark psychedelic swells and reflective, spaced-out lyrics.

    The album takes a slow start on designated single “Atomic Heels.” With lead singer Brandon Curtis’ ploddingly straightforward vocals urged by a pulsating guitar, it’s the most radio-friendly (and least interesting) track on the disc — but don’t let it fool you. The palatable rock core quickly merges with a more prog-tinged style on tracks like the electro-powered anthem “Have I Run Out” which channels a Killers-David Bowie mashup. “Now You’re Gone” shifts styles again, as Curtis wails a resounding, “It’s too late.” His echoing, restrained expression of heartache and lost hope is where Secret Machines really shines. The rock ballad then lets loose with rabid strumming reminiscent of U2’s guitar hero, the Edge (an appropriate influence, seeing as how Secret Machines toured with the Irish legends in ’06).

    But not all is well in the land of machines — closing track “The Fire is Waiting” runs just over 11 minutes, leaving you exhilarated and slightly confused, stuck somewhere between artful narrative and confused acid trip.

    While Secret Machines plows on after the departure of guitarist and backing vocalist Benjamin Curtis, their latest solid effort doesn’t quite live up to the hype of their first two albums. While the same experimentation is there, Secret Machines lacks the sprawling stadium-rock results of past endeavors. Nonetheless, the Machines take us on a trip worth talking about.

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