Since my appreciation of the Bad Elephant Music label goes back in 2015 when I bought Trojan Horse’s World Turned Upside Down on Wayside Music, I’ve always wanted to discover what the label has sparkled more of the music in my eardrums. And the sparkle has come to light with an amazing up-and-coming band from England called The Rube Goldberg Machine. This is the band’s debut on the label this year entitled, Fragile Times. This is perhaps for me, another mind-blowing futuristic debut I’ve discovered. And with lyrical boundaries showing the essence of the darker subjects with taking from the involvement of Daniel Bowels, here they prove that it’s more than just Prog.
I remember hearing their music on one of my favorite podcasts I would listen to that I’ve mentioned called, Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. Sid would always make my ears enjoy the music he would play on the episodes he would pick. Whether it’s the sounds of Canterbury, Jazz Rock, Avant-Garde, and Progressive Music. But from the moment I’ve heard The Rube Goldberg Machine on his podcast and he even wrote the liner notes for this album, I knew I had to buy this album. So I went ahead and bought the album on the Kinesis website along with Maglev’s Overwrite the Sin.
And from the moment I put on the Rube Goldberg Machine’s debut album on my portable CD player, I could feel that the trio are following in the footsteps of Steven Wilson and knowing that they are going to do just fine. There aren’t any auto-tuning, no pro-tools, and no digital enhancements, this is band playing real and sounding fresh right from the get-go and showing how real good music is supposed to sound. And it sounds perfect from start to finish. And with five enduring centerpieces, you might want to take notes on.
Opener, Background Noise deals with how the deals of fame from the digital ages from sites like a YouTube sensation, can come with a heavy price and knowing that you’re 15-minutes of fame with the obsession of the computer screen, social media, and texting is like being the butt of jokes. The lyrics themselves are spot on as the music carries an orchestral and ominous overtone thanks to the Alex Lifeson-sque guitars bringing forth the dark lullabies and the essence of Tool comes to mind.
The waltzy 3/4 time signature of Little Funerals has a clapping yet catchy acoustic alternative folk-rock flavor while the title track deals with the dystopian fear of a division with a political weapon and rising tides of a distant race and not letting the front line draw thin. Times Square starts off with a touch between the styles of Slash from the Appetite for Destruction-era and Rush’s Moving Pictures-era.
The guitars are going into the areas between lead and riff eruptions before the drums and bass in the midsection go into a Geddy Lee and Neil Peart approach with the different time changes coming at you in a quick second with the Swing-Jazz Metal touch with an unexpected twist. There’s more of the alternative rock sound of a journey that’s about to begin with a climbing melody.
According to the song behind The Captain’s Blackjack, the tradition of NASA before sending a ship up to outer space, the Captain plays this game with the tech crew until he or she loses a hand, then the mission can begin. It’s a great catchy song that we are inside the Captain’s mind of he will win the game of cards before heading towards his ship.
The closing track, Afraid of my own Shadow sees the band head towards a reminiscent of Agitation Free’s Haunted Island from the band’s 2nd album, and Ash Ra Tempel. It has a heavier and melodic side as the lyrics deal of being your own worst enemy and depression with a suicidal approach of the shadow taunting your every move. Spacey guitars from the reminiscent of Manuel Gottsching and Fripp-sque lines come into place, they bring in the switch of no sign of peace.
Fragile Times is a promising debut and it can take a few listens to sink into. Here, The Rube Goldberg Machine proves that they delivered the heavier themes, and it’s a well job done of an accomplishment and for the label, Bad Elephant Music.