Then Comes Silence – Machine Review

I’m a simple Muppet. I like to sit still and silently glare at the world from the shadows, except for when I like to hoot n’ holler under disco lights while I shake my moneymaker.1 I can’t always predict which mood will strike me or when, but I do know that it’s typically one or the other: I’ve yet to find myself sullen with joy, nor have I ever experienced despair so great that I needed to dance. Such dichotomous atmospheres have been crafted and explored since the ancient times of The Eighties, but I had no reason to suspect anything of the sort awaited me when I plucked Then Comes Silence’s Machine from the promo pit. How could I? It was tagged simply as “goth,” the promotional descriptor was a novel praising the album’s fascination with death, and originally it was going to be covered by Ye Olde Steel until he… until… until he decided he wasn’t going to cover it anymore. *facepalm* Oh, fuck, what have I gotten myself into???

For starters, one of the weirder batches of name drops that I’ve ever whipped together: Then Comes Silence sound something like the frolicking gloomchild of The Cure, MGMT, Eurythmics, and Impure Wilhelmina. Machine is a strange thing of bouncing electronica and sullen prog, a 45-minute dance through the tears—or maybe it’s with? The lyrics and scales of the album are laced with woe, utterly defying the downright dance-y vibe of the largely synthesized rhythms. Bassist/synth warrior/vocalist Alex Svenson is incredibly comfortable in this disparate environment, sounding just as ready to tell me at any given moment that boys don’t cry as he is to declare that I spin him right round, like a record baby.2 He does neither of these things, but he certainly could. Identity crisis aside, Machine is corona level catchy, and it is genuinely difficult for me to keep still during “Devil.” By and large, this fancy fusion of forlorn feelz and funky, footloose nonsense actually works… kind of.

I’ve got nothing against this relatively unorthodox sound, clearly. In a way, I feel like part of me has been looking for this kind of downright irresponsible yin and yang of musical lunacy forever, but having an enjoyable sound doesn’t necessarily equate to having made an enjoyable record. It’s not that Then Comes Silence didn’t make an enjoyable record with Machine, but they didn’t exactly make a great one, either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely a fan of this album, but I’m also a fan of gas station pizza, Katy Perry, and Doc Grier‘s adorable attempts at coherency: sometimes I like hot garbage, yo. I like what I like, whether it’s gourmet cuisine or a scavenged Hot Pocket, and I might personally enjoy Machine but I’m also not here to lie to you: compositionally speaking, this thing’s a Hot Pocket that was thrown in the microwave with the wrapper still on and then nuked for 40 seconds.

That might sound a bit harsher than I necessarily intended, but it’s still a fair descriptor for the amount of effort that feels absent from the songwriting on Machine. My key gripe to that extent is the repetitive nature of the songs, often recycling central melodies and rhythms to the point that verses and choruses become indistinguishable. This sin of rererererererepetition occurs time and time and time and time again and again and again and again, at great cost to the album’s front-to-back listenability.3 To make matters more worserer,4 the fine line between “distinct artistic identity” and melodic over-recycling is effectively pissed on throughout the album, as Then Comes Silence are content to ride the dead horses of a scant few melodies as far into the ground as they can on Machine; sure, I might enjoy the d-d-d-digital digital gothdown of “Apocalypse Flare” and “In Your Name”, I’d be hard-pressed to point out much in the way of immediate differences between the two. Such being the case, Machine offers plenty to enjoy yet very little to actually savor.

All things considered, Machine is a difficult album to score. The whole Blaqk Audio with Less Energy thing that Then Comes Silence do definitely does it for me, but I’m also well aware that it’s a basic bitch boohoo bonanza; it does what it does well enough, but it tends to do it too much and whatever that is is basically bargain-basement b-side level at best. Machine is that magical, questionable slice of gas station pizza, the one you knew to be made without sanitary gloves or love the moment you saw it, and yet you ate it anyway, only to be amazed and slightly horrified by just how much you didn’t hate it. It apparently wasn’t for Steel, and it might not be for you, but I’ve liked better things less—and vice versa—and I’m content to do the Mope Town Shuffle with Then Comes Silence while I wait for my fellow wordslingers to stop hoarding all the 4.0s like they’re toilet paper.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Oblivion Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Technically it’s my lawyer’s moneymaker, but it takes more than a few lawsuits to make this velvet smoothness cease or desist.
  2. If you need those references explained, you had better A. Have your angry metal parental permission slip for your Hall field trip with you, and B. Start getting used to your new life as “dead to me.”
  3. To use the technical parlance, as it were.
  4. *Adjusts monocle* Quite.
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