Album art for "The Great Machine" is a vivid, stylized anatomic illustration of a mysterious creature.

Local Review: Tycoon Machete – The Great Machine

Local Music Reviews

Tycoon Machete
The Great Machine

Street: 07.18
Tycoon Machete = Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros + Gary Numan (The Flaming Lips)^2

When the system you believed in lets humanity down, pent-up anger can only be explored through art. That’s exactly what Tycoon Machete sought to do with their Primus-influenced, acid trip cover art and the ghoulish gurgle of J.P. Whipple’s vocals. Their first full length album, The Great Machine, is a post-grunge, psychedelic slumber, with their anti-capitalist lyrics etched on the glass inside of a lava lamp. It might not exactly send an aggressive middle finger at modern society, but instead feels more like daydreams around a smoking circle, wishing for a better future that won’t come. 

The Great Machine gives the sensation of falling without leaving the blood-orange shag carpet. Any string plucked instrument—Whipple’s bluesy banjo or Erin Stout’s lung tickling bass—melts into an electric fondue of folky, nomadic sludge. Sean McCarthy’s mind-erasing synthesizer is seasoned with a hyperactive distortion and pulled together by a steel-oil drum percussion from James Perry. Listening to the record makes me feel as if I’m in a Cold War instructional video done in claymation. Gumby went berserk and armed himself with a Fat Man nuke launcher from Fallout

Each track is a kaleidoscopic battle between two opposing forces: the natural aspects of being human versus the laissez-faire ideology created for future “progress.” The everyday war rig machines take on Mother Nature in “Gasoline” and “Everything’s Fine on Wall St. Tonight.” While technology ambushes the individual through pinpoint tactics of lost human connection in tracks such as “Islands” and “Apocalypse is Such a Bore.” The white flags of self-reliance have not been raised just yet. How much longer until we surrender our volition?

I thoroughly enjoyed the title track “The Great Machine.” The low tone echoes can be mistaken as the distant flutter of Hueys, leaving you with a feeling of alienation. Picture tuning in on a radio broadcast for evacuation procedures only to be met with static white noise. Giving you a feeling that “we are on our own out here.”  This is Tycoon Machete’s bare essentials song—no special treatment on sound design, no shiny-chrome curvature on the guitar or amplified boom from the drums. It’s a skeleton track, as if the band wandered home through a sun-beaten desert and found fragments of what used to be rock n’ roll equipment, fixed it up with duct tape, and made a wasteland special. 

At surface level, any partygoer at Burning Man might throw on this track to feel a superficial “trippy” atmosphere. If you shovel down through the radiated dirt and daunting hallucinogenic tunes, there’s a salvageable takeaway, an environmental piece to remind humanity that we are human, free will and all. –Alton Barnhart  

Read more coverage of music with anti-capitalist lyrics:
Apocalyptic Sound: An Interview with Clan of Xymox’s Ronny Moorings
Skinny Puppy @ The Complex 05.04