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Mantle slips through Texas trio's fingers.

Byline: By CLAIRE HILL Western Mail

When most people think about progressive rock, they conjure up ideas of Rick Wakeman surrounded by an unnecessary amount of keyboards while wearing a ridiculous cape. Nowadays the former Yes man is more famous for being in Countdown's dictionary corner, so it's up to a new generation of brooders to set the neo- psychedelic scene.

Texas trio Secret Machines are in an enviable position to do this. The band cut their first album proper in 2004 with Now Here Is Nowhere, a record that has earned them praise from the likes of Noel Gallagher and David Bowie and, in addition to this, some high-profile stadium slots with Oasis and U2.

Moving on from the wide open spaces of their debut, Secret Machines have added much brevity and melody to their latest album Ten Silver Drops with one eye clearly on the charts.

On Tuesday night the band shuffled on to the stage to the sound of cavernous beats and opened with the billowing seven- minute epic Alone, Jealous and Stoned.

Brandon Curtis's whirring guitar hooks spiralled into glorious repetition while drummer Josh Garza dealt his kit some hefty blows.

After such a thrilling introduction, the set went backwards, and instead of building on the intense atmosphere Secret Machines kept the tunes running for what felt like an age.

Daddy's In The Doldrums thinned out to a lengthy 10-minutes-plus and songs found themselves falling into one singular groove.

But then Curtis dragged the performance from its heels and struck out with the straight-up indie-rock of Lightning Blue Eyes.

It harnessed one of the few moments the audience had to move and drove one fan into hysterics as he bounced around the first few rows unable to contain his obvious delight.

Then again it all changed.

The conclusion of the set saw a rapid decline in pace and the tepid 1,000 Seconds took the shine off some previously pulsating tunes.

Secret Machines have clearly evolved from their debut release but the live atmosphere was for the most part gloomy. When the band nail an expansive tune it sounds imbued with emotional vigour.

But conversely when they get it wrong it sounds sustained and unwelcome. A frustrating prospect that could easily be so musically bold.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 23, 2006
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