Secret Machines

Sure, performers should have ambition; otherwise, mediocrity would reign unchecked. But if this characteristic is blended with rampant egomania, the results can be particularly embarrassing -- as they are on the Machines' latest.

In essence, Road is a stopgap EP, designed to capitalize on goodwill generated by the act's full-length debut, 2004's Now Here Is Nowhere. That's a recipe for filler, represented here by the title cut, which appears on Nowhere; "Better Bring Your Friends," a passable original; and an effective cover of Harmonia's "De Luxe (Immer Wieder)." Unfortunately, the remainder of the platter finds these guys measuring themselves against pop-music greats, and they come up wanting. Their rendition of "Astral Weeks," among Van Morrison's most personal airs, is relentlessly clueless; a pass through "Money (That's What I Want)" doesn't even measure up to the Flying Lizards' satirical take; and the version of Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" could hardly be more pretentious, or less revelatory.

The Machines would have been better off keeping their delusions of grandeur a secret.


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