I found out, by way of a flier on library mall, that The Secret Machines are playing a free show at Union South a week from tonight. If you're in Madison, you should plan on going. You'll be disapointed in yourself when, in four or five years, you're paying $30 to see them at the Orpheum or the Eagles Club.
But The Secret Machines are no nostalgia act: "Pharaoh's Daughter" counters the Floyd references with a drumbeat practically quoted from Isaac Hayes' cover of Bacharach's "Walk on By". Plus, they deploy a strategy similar to that of The Flaming Lips and Grandaddy: Not only is Garza more Steve Drozd than John Bonham (which could be a compliment), but The Secret Machines create songs that are just as spacey and concept-heavy, if not quite as quirky, as those on Yoshimi and The Sophtware Slump. "Leaves Are Gone" lolls along on the delicate ebb and flow of Brandon Curtis' keyboard cascades, forming a quiet counter to more aggressive songs like "Sad and Lonely". "Light's ON" boasts a better new wave hook than just about anything else to come out of NYC this year, crackling with a palpable paranoia as Curtis decries the intrusiveness of a Big Brother-like observer: "Somewhere there's a record of your whereabouts/ Everywhere you go you leave a trace.../ The light's ON/ We don't know just who our friends are." But there are forces allied against these threats, people who thrive in the underground: "The light's ON/ And we're waiting for the signal."