Just a quick one about some epic neo-Texan Krautrock today, Secret Machines Alone, Jealous & Stoned, 12″ which I bought in January 2006 for reasons which can be scientifically measured. I bought this record 1/3 because I loved the Hipgnosis-style cover (think Presence, but with a silver drop instead of a cubist penis), 1/3 because I really liked their debut album, 1/3 because the title had the word ‘stoned’ in and 4/8 because it was released on one-sided speckled clear vinyl; my hard-earned pay never stood a chance.
Secret Machines Now Here is Nowhere crash landed on planet Earth in 2004 and was like nothing I’d heard before, one of the most fully realized debuts I’d ever heard, a sophisticated melange of indie dynamics, Krautrock, some grandiose dynamics and a dash of garage rock to keep things honest. Don’t take my word for it, better write-ups are yours for the taking here and here. So I was really excited when I stumbled across Alone, Jealous & Stoned, like really really excited!
I remember getting it home and putting it on before even speaking to Mrs 1537, stroking cats, acknowledging ruddy-faced 5 and 6 year-old children and being well … I’m still not totally sure and I have listened to this record a lot this weekend. I’m divided as to whether I think it shows a stately, slow-burning majesty, or it’s just a bit slow; whether the subdued vocals mirror the soul of, what we scientists call, Homo Unravellous, or whether he just sounds like he couldn’t be arsed; whether I think the excitement is ramped up by the faster section, or whether it sounds like they wanted to get through it so they could get out of the studio for last orders. I genuinely (fixes you, the reader, with devastating puppy-dog look of sincerity) can’t decide.
It is definitely true that Secret Machines have, consciously or not, gorged themselves on the Marmalade of Epicness. There is a widescreen, stadium-ready sound to Alone, Jealous & Stoned which was absent from their previous records, the shadows of U2 and Coldplay lurk hereabouts, not necessarily in terms of their sound, although there are echoes, but in the breadth of the ambition shown. Whilst that’s not an automatic turn off for me and I am happy to be stadium fodder once in a while, it doesn’t often work for me. If that was their intention it didn’t work for Secret Machines either in this case as they rather lost focus after this single’s parent album, Ten Silver Drops.
So I’m sorry this is probably the most non-committal review I’ll write, I like this record that is a given, but I really can’t decide how much and how flawed I think it is.
P.S – Far better, to my ears unequivocally so, is this track a spacey B-side to the second single (blue vinyl, sigh!) Lightning Blue Eyes. I love this one.