Maybe I didn't notice it before. Maybe I was too overwhelmed by the breaking-waves-crashing-thunder drums, the moaning-and-monotone vocals, the shattered-and-shattering guitars and keybs coalescing into the Big Bang unheard since Bonzo croaked and Syd cracked. But it's unavoidable now, two albums and one EP into a major-label career that's seen these ex-pat locals mutate from blog faves to prog saviors: Every Secret Machines song sounds the same. There, said it; feel so much better now. Which isn't a dismissal or dog-out, mind you; better Josh Garza and Ben and Brandon Curtis' samey-same than anyone else's at the moment. But it's a disappointment, especially after last year's EP that suggested funk and folk lie in the band's future. Turns out the Dylan detour and Van diversion and "Money" move were just temporary deviations from the quiet-loud-quiet-FUCKING LOUD template hawked by Zeppelin and perfected by the Pixies and pawned off by everyone else since.
There is one essential difference this time out: Ten Silver Drops (which is really eight, friggin' rip-off) lacks the bark and bite of its 2004 predecessor; the wallop's been lopped off in favor of a serene in-the-studio sound even a volume knob up to 11 can't compensate for. Occasionally it reaches into your chest, smashes your rib cage and squeezes your lungs ("Lightning Blue Eyes," easily a highlight, and single "Alone, Jealous & Stoned," which sounds like a first-album leftover mashed up with Journey); and occasionally it slaps a nostalgic ain't-heard-a-song-like-that-since-'77 smile on your face ("I Want to Know," and I do). And occasionally, you even forget you've heard this all done before by the Machines themselves two years ago, before they turned into a machine.