Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins ~ Machina/The Machines Of God

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Style: industrial, heavy metal
Label: Virgin
Year: 2000
Home: n/a


Members: Billy Corgan ~ vocals/guitar/bass/keyboards
Jimmy Chamberlin ~ drums
James Iha ~ guitar
D'Arcy Wretzky ~ bass

Additional: Mike Garson ~ piano

I loved this album the first time I heard it & have even claimed it as my favorite Pumpkins album for a long time. I largely hadn't listened to it for many years when I pulled it to review. Hearing it again everything was musically there that I remembered but lost was the love I once had. Except for a few tracks I found the experience cold & chilling, anything but the fascinating & delightful listen I remembered it as. Listening again, as I always listen multiple times to every album while writing these reviews, I was also debating whether I wanted to keep it any longer or if there were any individual tracks I'd prefer to copy to my computer & keep instead. I soon found myself wanting to keep most of them. On the second listen the experimental distorted wall of sound was full of mystery & depth again along with the warm & the personal emotional lyrics typical of Corgan's pen that I had heard & loved so long ago. With these two listens comes both the good & bad of Machina/The Machines Of God. Fans will find this either an alienating listening unlike any previous Pumpkins album that is an experiment in tolerance & an odd coda as the band broke-up afterwards ... or it's a treasure chest, or more fitting Pandora's Box, of layers of sounds coming from some dark recess of Corgan's mind. The opening guitar notes could be right off of a Nine Inch Nails album & sets the tone to be relentlessly used to extreme effect for the majority of the album. But, unlike NIN which is industrially cold yet personal, this is mostly a cold reflecting its impersonal android title with the personal emotions tightly tucked underneath a distorted wall of guitars that are dark, heavy & generally cluttered. Supposedly, this is a concept album but the story is confusing & difficult to figure out, but it certainly must have something to do with a cold robotic world. The music makes this clear. Albeit, according to wikipedia it's actually about a "rock star gone mad" so one is forced to wonder at this strange Pandora's Box if not even the music can accurately relay the story. Even the ballads (i.e. "Raindrops + Sunflowers") are given the wall touch, making them still attractive but far from as memorable as earlier albums' ballads. If it wasn't for Corgan's vocals it would be at times difficult to figure out what is a ballad & what isn't as so many of the songs blend into each. There are a few standout songs but nothing memorable while most of the album suffers from a monotony occasionally broken by pop rock interludes that seem out of place. If you're expecting the Smashing Pumpkins that created the memorable "1979", "Tonight, Tonight" or "Today" this is not the album for you. This is not your band. "Today" has become 'Yesterday' with a complete reversal of what's loved about the band. This is not the best Smashing Pumpkins album but provides such a contrasting view of the Corgan's creativity that it's hard to not take notice. Let alone if one can make an album for robots this is it. But, perhaps that's the point of the monotony. This is a concept album after all. I'm reminded of the rock version of the classic movie 'Metropolis'. Add in the music of Android Lust & you've got hte perfect soundtrack if there should ever be another remake. Sadly, this feels like an experiment single handedly created by Corgan, which it largely is. It pushes the boundaries so far to lose the listener. If he'd lightened up this could have been a better album, never the best album, but definetly better. Listen to this album twice. Let it sink in & then make a decision on what you think. A two CD sequel was later released for free online only featuring the continuing story & alternative versions.


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