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, May 24, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins ~ Machina II/The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music

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Style: heavy metal, progressive
Label: Constantinople
Year: 2000
Home: n/a

Members: Billy Corgan, James Iha ~ guitar/vocals
Meliss Auf der Maur ~ bass
Micke Garson ~ keyboards
Jimmy Chamberlin ~ drums
For a band as popular as the Smashing Pumpkins it might surprise many to know that their sixth album remains largely unknown, let alone unheard by many, though it was released free online in 2000 ... what could be better than a free Smashing Pumpkin's album? Machina II/The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music was originally planned to be bundled with the brooding concept album Machina/The Machines Of God, but the record label was uninterested in releasing a financially questionable double CD set after low sales of the previous SP album Adore. Following disagreements with the label Machina II was released by frontman mastermind Billy Corgan's own label. Only 25 copies were made, given to friends of the band & a few select prominent fans in the online community with instructions to release it immediately on the internet at no charge. The band would formally break up soon after & thus Machina II would not get heavily promoted or performed & thus lost to many casual followers of the band. It's ashame because it has some good music, particularly following the musical experiment that was Machina that alienated many fans with its moodiness & overly industrial approach let alone confusing indecipherable story of Glass. Machina II picks up the Glass story, but like the first album it's a trivial aspect as the story is the least interesting thing about the album. It's as trivial as the story of the Sgt Pepper band in that so-called concept album. It doesn't help endorse the story any that some of the songs on Machina II are weaker alternative versions of songs found on Machina ("Try, Try, Try", "Heavy Metal Machine" & "Blue Skies Bring Tears") plus an outtake from Adore ("Cash Car Star") ... which makes it a new story with some of the same songs ... while other songs were meant for Machina but left out when it was not going to be a double album ... thus it's a story using songs meant for another story, plus alternative songs from that story. Doesn't say much for the story. There are some additional tracks that truly continue the story of Glass & the Machines Of God but they get lost in the shuffle like the idea itself. But, one doesn't go to SP for storytime but for the great modern take on 60's psychedelic/garage rock. For those that lost interest in SP because of the changed direction of Machina Machina II offers an opportunity to return with a dynamic array of songs that couldn't have made Machina a much more powerful & less alienating album if included. Machina II offers both the modern experiments of Machina but also is a hearkening back to earlier SP days with their trademark blend of power pop & hard rock. Because it was not formally released Machina II got few reviews but they were unanimously positive, one even calling it an 'artistic high', showing the potential of SP had they continued. This release might essentially be a collection of outtakes but it does shine in its own way. It has everything Machina wasn't but which fans wanted - its warm yet introspective in that expected Billy Corgan way, lots of great ballads which are always a SP highlight, lots of memorable songs in an array of dynamic styles & though its 2 CD's it doesn't getting boring ... & it even includes a thrashy version of James Brown's "Soul Power" that sounds more like Iggy Pop than funky soul. There are a few odd tracks that show the experimental side of SP that came to the fore with Machina (i.e. "Saturnine", "Glass Theme", "If There Is A God" & the keyboard instrumental "Le Duex Machina") that often sound incomplete & verge on noize experiments, but with 2 CDs they are easily skipped over & a good album's worth of enjoyable songs is left if not an album & a half. You really can't ask any more from a double album as no double album is perfect. There's also a few tracks that need repeated listenings to really get (i.e. "Speed Kills", "Lucky 13", "White Spider", "In My Body", "Here's To The Atom Bomb") but everything SP album has those. Requiring mention is "If There Is A God" with just acoustic piano & Corgan singing, complimented by a full band version for comparison. The solo piano take is obviously a demo version as it gets an abrupt end with studio chatter but it's an absolute must hear. Guitarist James Iha also gets lead vocals on "Go" which feels like waves against the shore & is completely relaxing in the midst of experimentation. More of that please. & if you like "Go" check out Iha's solo album. Machina II is an incredibly interesting compilation ... or compilation disguised as an album. If it had been given a little more time in the studio it could have been a great album. One can't help but wonder if this had been released instead of Machina ... a question never to be answered as we continue to ask the question surrounding Machina of what happened to the songs in Corgan's quest to experiment?



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