Although The Secret Machines made a minor splash with their Brian Deck-produced September 000
EP, few would have guessed that they'd be snapped up by a major in such a hurry. While they are indeed finely-tuned progenitors of bygone psychedelic turbulence, they possess neither The Strokes' scene-baiting snottiness nor The Walkmen's golden FM transcendence. It's hard to imagine what a major label would do with the NYC trio.
If somebody can make southern-fried pop weirdos The Flaming Lips into international mega-stars, anything's possible, right? The powers that be certainly think so, and now have their sights set on turning Now Here is Nowhere into the soundtrack to a million hopeless Gen-X nights. Really, why not The Secret Machines? They're cute and cuddly in that "we're scruffy and pretending to be tough" Williamsburg way, and their checkered haze occasionally billows to the same flamboyant heights as the Lips' bombastic, pharmaceutically-derived pop squall. World-beating idols have been made of lesser beings, not to mention lesser musicians.
Now Here is Nowhere succeeds as much as it fails, due in large part to the fact that it tries desperately to burn its candle at both ends; unwieldy psychedelic dinosaurs like "First Wave Intact" and the title track hint that they're looking to become the new gods of bong-powered thunder -- but then they drop a bomb like the sleek, urbanely scoffing "Road Leads Where It's Led" and instantly re-cast themselves as black-clad top forty gatecrashers looking for a fast ticket to fortune and fame. Of course, the band's real spirit seems to lie somewhere between those two poles, and it's when the two paths diverge that they're at their most effective; the insistent strum-fuzz of "Sad and Lonely" drips interstellar sass, and the genteel piano melody of lilting torch-song "Pharoah's Daughter" is adorned with shadowy, backwards-loping guitars and muted percussive uprisings. It's a mighty fine line the Machines walk here, and while they occasionally trip over themselves ("Leave are Gone" is particularly unspectacular), it's hard to fault their ambition, especially when you consider that it flies in the face of rock's current penchant for eighties-derived minimalism.
The Secret Machines have found themselves in a fortunate position -- they're esoteric enough to engage the fickle underground crowd, but savvy enough to bury infectious melodies within their volcanic tempest.