Review Summary: Back when it was cool to believe in magic.
When recently debuting Austin Rock band Dream Machine got dropped by their label over their controversial statements on illegal immigration and feminism, a large debate erupted over freedom of speech between two extreme sides of the music community. The resulting divide provided the band with immense publicity. For many, the incident was largely seen as surprisingly coincidental, considering their album was released only recently before the controversy. This isn't surprising for those of us familiar with Dream Machine's frontman Matthew Melton.
Matt Melton is not one to shy away from controversy. This was a man who, for his senior thesis at the Memphis College of Art, staged his own arrest at the college's BFA exhibition. This is also the guy who, after Bare Wires bandmate Omar Hernandez suffered an overdose and had to be taken to the hospital, tried to downplay the situation as a "self-induced health-related concern". Matt is also notorious for kicking band members out left and right if they don't follow his exact rules. When he doesn't do that, he admittedly will purposefully sabotage an albums production out of anger. Such was the case with Warm Soda's second album where Melton admits "I sort of over produced it, over thought it. Honestly I can't stand how this album came out. I was so frustrated with problems between band members that I mixed certain songs badly on purpose".
Considering he openly admits these things, I think it's safe to say that Matt could care less about whether people like his attitude or not. So of course this little publicity stunt with his latest band isn't really surprising or shocking in any context. Of course, like Melton's previous bands, his penchant for controversy will unfortunately overshadow whatever music this band creates. This review, however, will disregard his public persona and focus on the band's output in regards to their debut album The Illusion
Dream Machine isn't designed as a tribute band to a bygone era, it was deliberately made to trick listeners into thinking this album is 40 years older than it actually is. With it's 70's style synthesizers and radio-filtered vocals, The Illusion
attempts to create the illusion (HA) that this is simply an old 70's act being dug from the grounds of history and released into the spotlight. To be quite honest, it does so quite successively. Each track is created with the same catchy ballads and instrumentation that defined many independent Rock bands in the late 60's and early 70's. That isn't to say The Illusion
's tracks are just gimmicks; with the album having standouts like The Illusion
; a title track with a very hypnotic rhythm and jive as Doris Melton provides an ethereal synthesizer beat to compliment Melton's filtered vocals. Another prominent track on the album is I Walked in the Fire
, which feature beautiful drum work by Dillon Fernandez, who matches each beat with precision.
Though Melton's vocals are filtered heavily to give it that "aged" feel, it isn't hard to hear his words and his vocals aren't that bad anyways. One of the best showcases of his vocal talents is Buried Alive
where Melton provides a soft spoken pitch with slight crescendos during the ballad moments. Doris is no slouch on the organ and synths either, as she takes center stage in multiple songs, especially Eye for an Eye
where the organs and her vocals provide the foundation for the songs heavy guitar instrumentation.
The barebones of it is that Dream Machine's debut album is excellent. Featuring a true throwback to a bygone era, while also maintaining a quality album on the side. Each track has it's own identity, but the overall style remains the same throughout. Sure it doesn't attempt to be anything other than good old fashioned fun, but it really doesn't need to be. With Dream Machine, Matthew Melton has crafted a groovy pastime outfit that has a chance to really carve it's own niche in the Modern/70's Rock crowd. Though that is contingent on Matt not causing another controversy in the meantime.