Now Here is Nowhere
Let’s start the new year at LxL by rewinding the clock 10 years. In 2004, Dallas psych-rock band the Secret Machines released their full-length debut, Now Here is Nowhere, to very little fanfare, but the album stands out as one of the best albums of that year. The reason I have chosen to highlight this album is the recent passing of their lead singer and one of two brothers in the band, Benjamin Curtis, who died of a rare Lymphoma cancer on December 30th. So as a way of highlighting his career, I thought I would cover his best album. And that’s not a small statement for a man involved in 3 noteworthy bands, Tripping Daisies, the Secret Machines, and School of Seven Bells. So onto the album.
The Secret Machines come bursting out of the gate with “First Wave Intact”, a 9-minute take-no-prisoners rock romp, with a propulsive guitar riff, thundering percussion, and a driving Krautrock aesthetic that pushes the song along. “Sad and Lonely” follows with a wincing guitar intro before Curtis plays up the big brash vocal, kind of in the vein of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips when Coyne is being a bit of a smart aleck.
Following the first 14 minute assault, “The Leaves Are Gone” comes as a welcome exhale, an airy and psychedelic ballad that wouldn’t be too out of place on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
The biggest highlight and centerpieces to Now Here is Nowhere is “Nowhere Again” and the title track “Now Here is Nowhere.” Both songs are underscored by the same muscle-car guitar riff and a strong melodic core, but “Nowhere Again” is the 4-minute punk pop song, and the title track is the explorative guitar odyssey. “The Road Leads Where It’s Led” is also a close cousin to those two tracks, fitting the style and mood, but with a grander chorus and blissful harmonies from the Curtis brothers.
The album really quiets down in its final half especially with “Pharoah’s Daughter” and “You Are Chains”. “Pharoah’s Daughter” is a slightly jazzy journey through a sort of drugged-out Egyptian space. “You Are Chains” is a moving piano ballad, which takes off in its second act. I remember seeing the Secret Machines at Langerado, a Fort Lauderdale festival that is now long gone, in 2006, and “You Are Chains” served as the heart of their live show, a performance which was wonderfully dynamic with all the smoke and lighting touches you want to see in a psych rock show.
Benjamin Curtis may be gone, but albums like Now Here is Nowhere will help his legacy to live on. Give the Secret Machines or any of his other bands (Tripping Daisies and School of Seven Bells), a try if you haven’t before.
Can’t Miss: “The Leaves Are Gone”, “First Wave Intact”, “Nowhere Again”, “You Are Chains”
Can’t Hit: “Light’s On”