My ex-girlfriend’s a stoner. She’s psyched about this newfangled hesher gizmo called the nebulizer. Actually, it’s a totally legit device used by asthmatics to purify their unrefined meds for easy inhalation, but it’s been co-opted by potheads to transform pure THC into an easily inhalable fine mist, thus getting you really fucking high. Like the nebulizer, Brooklyn trio the Secret Machines—brothers Ben Curtis (guitar and vocals) and Brandon Curtis (lead vocal/keyboard/bass), and drummer Josh Garza—have a knack for taking coarse, arty influences and extracting the juicy stuff, leaving you with a fine mist of easily inhalable pop-medicine. From their first NYC gigs back at Brownie’s—fresh off the wagon from their hometown, Dallas—you just knew they were one of those bands that took drugs to make music to take drugs to. And with their low-budget yet highly effective onstage employment of blinding white shop lights—an affectation they’ve used since the beginning—they’ve hinted that there’s more to their secret machinations than meets the eye.
One secret is synthesis: no dining at the same ole protoplasmic gene pools. Like all the great rockers before them (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd), they mix the new and old in spicy, unheard-of ways. Their lab’s brimming with Kraut- and space-rock influences: Neu! and Can-like grooves and Spacemen 3/Spiritualized/My Bloody Valentine deep-galaxy guitar-swirls. Live, they even cover a Harmonia tune. But for that extra bro-down, pinch-hitter, backseat Camaro buzz, they time-warp you into classic-rock déjà vu.
Much praise and scorn’s been blathered about the fact that they (at times) sound a lot like Pink Floyd. But it’s probably their cross-pollination with the modern-pop dreaminess of a Radiohead or Coldplay that found their excellent current Now Here Is Nowhere a major-label home: a commendable and totally what-the-fug? accomplishment, considering that most of its tracks last between five and nine minutes and are plentifully spiked with prog and melloooow lava-lamp-watching bits. Too bad FM radio still has its head stuck up its pre-1980 ass, ’cause the album is so FM—so non-single-driven AOR—but in such a cool robot-from-the-2004-future-sent-to-save-rock-in-the-past sort of way. Thanks to classic-rock radio, kids in Kansas still clean their windows of perception to their uncle’s old 2112 or The Wall albums—not that there’s anything wrong with that. But how lamentable, considering new, potently nebulized rock like the Machines would be the perfect contemporary compliment.