It's unforunate the way cover albums go. Almost as soon as it says "Featuring (cover song)...", it's on it's way to the Cover Album dump. Rage Against The Machine's Renegades
. A Perfect Circle's eMotive
. Both relatively listenable albums, but would often end up in the back of the listener's favorites, if it's even around long enough to make it there. Enter Secret Machines, a trio consisting of brothers Brendan Curtis, Ben Curtis and some guy named Josh Garza. This little band Secret Machines came onto the scene with the progressive -ndie gem Now Here Is Nowhere
, and soon the anything but ironic cover art that displayed a small, white instrument filled room became the premise of this following EP - except in negative.
It seems as though Secret Machines did not get the memo - cover albums are out
. Ever since The Rolling Stone's 12 X 5
, there may have been a small place for these albums, but they never proved to be anything spectacular. This album is sort of a breath of fresh air. It's a good cover album.
The problem that lies with most cover albums is the selection of songs. Rage were never meant to cover the Stones. And what's this with Imagine by A Perfect Circle? There was a time when the songs you would cover really didn't matter, because there wasn't that much variety at the time. Now, forty years later, it remains more of a problem than ever. Kudos to Secret Machines for making a great cover album.
Now, the album.
There are two songs written by Secret Machines here. These songs are the progish, slow and ultimately entertaining The Road Leads Where It's Led
, and the mainstream rock hum of Better Bring You're Friends
. Both songs are great, have great energy and feature some awesome instrumental performances, but alas the songs themselves sound as if they're coming straight from a Nickelback kind of place. A very dark place, unfortunately. But, mainstream aside, Secret Machines make the songs more enjoyable than you're everyday Photograph
. Secret Machines dare to add a mix of they're own personal style, aka prog-indie. The result are two songs that are neither fast nor slow, but contain enough passion of half of a cd. This is good. Secret's are getting the picture - don't be too narrative. As the songs carry on into they're little solos, bridges and hard rocking finales (in the case of The Road Leads Where It's Led
), you get the feeling that the band wanted more to attract a mainstream audience, while keeping a firm grip of the fans who fell in love with them in 2003. Both songs entertain, bring the rock, and Machines here also made sure that they sounded a little bit genuine.
Now the covers come in. The triumphant cover would have to be, without a doubt, the cover of Barry J. Gordy and Janie Bradford's Money (That's What I Want)
. Who these people were/are, I have no clue. All I know is that a) The Beatles made a cover of this song and b) the Secret Machine's version owns hard. It's a blend of a brawny drum riff that sounds as if they're beating out the rhythm of doom, a spectacular, harrowing and hoarse vocal performance, and the occasional strumming of basic chords. As simple as it is, this song packs a punch. For a total of 7:07, the band takes you on an emotional journey through the life of a poverty-struck man, and gives you the details in brutal description. But the music is what steals the scene. As far as the slow, progressive feel gos, the music is incredible. As far as the progression, so to speak, of the song goes, it's perfect, ending the vocals at a respectable 6:00 or so, letting the music take you to a nice, relaxing and, oddly enough, dark place. This song, quite frankly, owns this album with a vengeance.
Then, the other covers make a rather lengthy appearance. Totaling a total of 23 minutes between three songs, you can obviously tell that they pack a little bit of aggression and variety in them, but that they may go on for a tad too long. Fotunately, the cover of Dylan's Girl from the Northwest
is a spectacular, un-Dylan-esque and supremely enjoyable nine minutes. Filled to the brink with the same elements that made Money
a perfect song, but too a lesser extent. Machine's do a great job of making the song theirs, complete with incredible, Pink Floyd-ish vocals, eventual steady drums and bass, and the occasional strumming of a simple chord on a piano, this song has enough musical class in it to make it a classic. Unfotunately, the whole nine minutes deal makes it a little tedious, and it doesn't help that it ends with a minute of silence. Something that really, really annoys me in music. As far as the other two go, they are great, if not too special, songs that resonate a little class, but also make a little bit of aggression a key point. On De-Luxe
, the band chases an electronic force to it, and channels the Machine's signature sound. But, as far as impressive performances go, they could've done much better. The fact that they made this song eight minutes seems a little intimidating, but they do they're best to entertain you. It works a little bit, but it also falls flat at around five minutes. You have to give them a little credit, though. This song is different from the others, and maybe it wasn't the wisest choice for a band of this talent level.
So, this album is great, despite the fact that it is dominated by covers. These guys kept on driving past the so called Cover Album dump, and made it a fantastic, spririted an enjoyable EP (hardly, though, as it clocks in at 36 minutes). They give it they're all in terms of beauty, and this album shimmers from start to finish. Unfortunately, there are a few little breaks that make this album less enjoyable. The original songs could've been loads better if made to sound like the band itself, and some songs could've obviously been cut down a tad. Nevertheless, this is an extremely enjoyable EP that I suggest you own if you like they're other albums.