Just over three minutes into "The Walls Are Starting To Crack," the sixth track on Secret Machines' new self-titled album, the wounded song goes off the rails. Ninety seconds of fluttering, clattering ambience gives way to a searing guitar solo and cosmic gospel wailing. It's a refreshingly weird passage on a record that otherwise deviates little from the brawny but accessible psychedelia of the band's first two.
Secret Machines opens with "Atomic Heels," a glammy stomper that sounds like a leftover from the last album, the polished Ten Silver Drops. The chugging, chiming "Underneath The Concrete" and wistful "Now You're Gone" offer similarly smooth pleasures—too smooth, maybe, as both songs veer too close to forgettable pop rock. The latter features a simple, melodic refrain, but it sounds too much like a somber rewrite of Glass Tiger's "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)."
The band is most successful when indulging its propensity for musical gigantism. The longer songs on Machines, like the aforementioned "Walls," best fulfill the big promise of the band's debut, Now Here is Nowhere. Elegant guitar flourishes and rabid, mammoth drumming make the nearly eight-minute "Have I Run Out" a standout. Only the longest song, the 11-minute closer "The Fire Is Waiting," wears out its welcome, pummeling convincingly but failing to reach crescendo.