Results for The Secret Machines

interviews

Steve Wynn

In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.

It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.

Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.

The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.

Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.

The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.

After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.

Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.

Go to episode 21
reviews
Ten Silver DropsTen Silver Drops available on iTunes

The Secret Machines Ten Silver Drops

The first album up for review is Ten Silver Drops by The Secret Machines. This is the second album by the psychedelic Dallas band (now based in Brooklyn). Their previous release, Now Here is Nowhere, earned quite a bit of praise and won them some impressive fans. In fact, Bob Ezrin, who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall, even offered to handle Ten Silver Drops. The band decided to go it alone, however, and Jim and Greg manage to agree on the results. For them the album is full of strong melodies, surprising harmonies, and Josh Garza's signature seismic drumming. Both critics believe they may have surpassed their debut album and give this go-around a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 20
InterpolInterpol available on iTunes

Interpol Interpol

Interpol's 2001 debut Turn on the Bright Lights is still considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of that decade. But, they've been unable to reclaim that success with subsequent releases. Bassist Carlos D has left the band, and Dave Pajo of Slint and Brandon Curtis of The Secret Machines have joined it. So Jim and Greg were eager to hear how the sound had evolved. Unfortunately, it didn't. On their new self-titled release, Interpol is still churning out Joy Division-inspired tracks. And Carlos D's departure is a real loss. Both critics wish the songwriting had been stronger and give Interpol a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 249
rock doctors

Brendan

Even the healthiest music listener depends on recommendations from family and friends. But for more severe cases, Sound Opinions recommends people make an appointment with the Rock Doctors. When Brendan from Los Angeles contacted Sound Opinions H.Q. and described his symptoms, we immediately took him in to see the doctors and get a diagnosis. Brendan suffers from an ailment common among people of his generation: 90s-itis. Brendan loves music but hasn't moved forward since 1995. That was the high point of his music listening, and you can still find Weezer's Blue Album and Nirvana's Nevermind in his CD player. He loves the balance of noisy rock and melody in those albums. And, since he can no longer turn on an alt-rock radio station to hear a similar sound, he asks the Rock Doctors, "What sounds like '90s alternative in 2008?"

Greg's answer to this question is The Secret Machines. The group harkens back to that hard, but melodic sound. The group uses elements from that era like strong guitars and drums, and adds space rock. A fan of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and even The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, should love "Ten Silver Drops" by The Secret Machines.

Jim's prescription for 90s-itis is Wolf Parade. The Canadian indie rockers have a lot of energy and aggression that Brendan should appreciate. There's a nod to classic rock, but the band is not living in the past. He gives Brendan a dose of "At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade and invites him back for a follow-up appointment in a week.

When Brendan returns he reports that he is slowly recovering. He enjoyed both prescriptions, but thinks he needs to give them more time. Brendan found both records slightly more mellow than he expected, but liked that they weren‘t“screaming.”Brendan now has two albums in his collection that were recorded in the 21st century, and that’s all the Doctors could ask for.

Go to episode 152