Sweet relief comes to Madison for the throngs of teenagers bemoaning the fact that the creative age of classic rock essentially came to an end with the '70s. For every guy with sort of long hair who would, in a moment, trade in his collection of Led Zeppelin T-shirts for the opportunity to travel back in time and see them in concert, that sweet relief comes tonight in the form of a Dallas-based band called The Secret Machines.
They might not be Zeppelin-they are certainly not from the '70s-but the stomping, precise drumming that begins The Secret Machines' debut album Now Here Is Nowhere will shake you just as hard as John Bonham did to arena audiences 30 years ago with the drum thunder that is \When the Levee Breaks.""
It is not arguable that The Secret Machines, who play Union South's Club 770 this evening, owe a lot musically to the great bands of the classic rock era, but the truly remarkable thing about their music is that they manage to channel their heroes without really being too derivative. The Secret Machines are not interested in the classic rock revivalism that so many current ""it"" bands have been stricken with. They cull the best elements of '70s album and arena rock, throw in a few touches of '90s indie and somehow manage to create a sound that is in the end all their own.
The thundering drums of Led Zeppelin find a new home in the hands of Benjamin Curtis and his amazing work in ""First Wave Intact,"" the spacey and alluring soundscapes of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd permeate ""Leaves Are Gone,"" and the plaintive vocals inflections that lead singer Brandon Curtis employs during ""Pharaoh's Daughter"" suggest in no small way The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. The Secret Machines know what they like from rock's past, and they are not afraid to sample it.
But miraculously, their massive debt to the bygone peaks of rock music does not make their music a history lesson. The Secret Machines take the things we all know and love from rock's history to make a thundering sound, songs both catchy and challenging, and make an album that stands on its own. And they are a knockout live band-it bodes well for tonight's show that their wonderful debut is itself a live recording with just a few overdubs.
While Bonham may be dead and Floyd may be disgracing their good name by refusing to throw in the towel, when you hear the bouncing excitement that informs the guitar riff in ""Nowhere Again,"" you won't care. The Secret Machines are trying to pick up where the greats have left off, making tonight's show well worth seeing. Plus, it's free, and buying another T-shirt with ""Stairway"" lyrics on it is not.
Moving Units and Audiolux
Club 770, Union South
Today, 8:45 p.m.