We’ve always known Secret Machines have got more than a little Pink Floyd in them and, for the most part, that’s no bad thing. But the 3D glasses thrust into NME’s hand upon arrival at tonight’s show are the strongest indication yet that the New Yorkers might have stumbled into prog parody. In conjunction with a huge, multi-coloured string canopy onstage, these 1950s throwback specs are presumably intended to add some cosmic colour to the proceedings. Great fun if you happen to be tripping your balls off on MGMT-strength acid, but for the rest of us these blurry visual effects do little other than give you a headache and make everyone bump into each other more than usual.
Making their crowd look like complete prats is bad enough, but Secret Machines don’t redeem themselves much through their musical tricks tonight, either. Their new line-up is actually just as prone to drawn-out droning as they ever were, but it now feels more forced and laboured in comparison to the natural telepathy that ran through their first two albums. Opener ‘The Fire Is Waiting’ is a case in point: it starts at a crawl, goes nowhere very slowly and ends in an anticlimactic swirl of loud but ultimately listless guitar noise that practically leaves the show stillborn. Ordinarily, the galloping ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’ would be strong enough to bring the set back to life, but even that feels bereft of its old dynamism.
But just when it seems they need to be consigned to the great scrapheap in the sky for the sake of society’s sanity, their self-patented space rock unexpectedly hits a high gear. Newbie ‘Atomic Heels’ in particular sounds like Led Zeppelin attacking the Death Star with riff lasers, and is driven as ever by Josh Garza’s thunderous drum grooves.
Meanwhile, the still-pulsating ‘Nowhere Again’ and ‘First Wave Intact’ round off the set by providing a much-needed reminder of the majestic power that made them so special in the first place. For tonight, though, it’s too little too late. By the time they finally call it quits, it’s gone 12.30am and about a third of the crowd have binned their 3D glasses and buggered off. Secret Machines still have a great band in them somewhere, but it’s slowly dying under the weight of their own increasingly heavy-handed self-indulgence.