Pumpkins reclaim old fans with Machina
By GEOFFREY RAHIE
Scene Movie Critic
As soon as Billy Corgan rips into the opening riff of "The Everlasting Gaze," you know that the Smashing Pumpkins are back. After registering one of the most successful double-albums in rock history with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Pumpkins received popular backlash for their follow-up album, Adore. But the Pumpkins are sure to regain some fans lost in the aftermath of Adore with Machina: the machines of God.
In a way, Machina might be the Pumpkins' best work. While one might make a case for the alternative masterpiece Siamese Dream, Machina is definitely the group's most mature effort. The band seems to have found the perfect mix of driving rockers and blissful pop. The result is quite electrifying.
The opening track, "The Everlasting Gaze," might be one of the strongest hard numbers written by leader Billy Corgan. In the past, Corgan's hard rock songs sometimes went a little too far. They either pushed the fine line of sensible music or just got way too repetitive. For every solid track like "Zero" there would be a weaker version such as "Bodies."
However, Machina's only weak hard number is the almost-laughable "Heavy Metal Machine." The guitar lines are pretty impressive, but it's so hard to get over the fact that Corgan is singing the praises of heavy metal so blatantly. The least he could have done was disguise the lyrics a little bit.
Although the critics have been saying the Pumpkins are returning to their hard rock roots — which they do address in a few songs — the real strength of the CD is that the bulk of the songs are mid-tempo, standard rock/pop songs. Right after the crashing guitars on the opening track, the cool back-beat of "Raindrops + Sunshowers" helps settle down the atmosphere. Corgan discusses the common bond everyone shares through our pain and misfortunes.
And that is only the beginning.
The entire disc is chock-full of ear candy, highlighted by the breathtaking "I of the Morning." Corgan's voice seems to have calmed down a little bit in the song as he reminisces about his beginning love of music. The track is basically an ode to his discovery of the radio "that plays his favorite song." The radio inspires him to "wipe the dust off his guitar" and "read your letters." The track explains how we tend to associate music with a certain time in our lives, whether it be junior-high, a certain relationship or a particularly tough time. Music can make us hold on to the memories that made us laugh and cry. And that's what is so great about it.
Another winner is the exceptional "Try, Try, Try" which calls for the courage in all of us to win over the fear. He points out places where people need to be strong — "I hear it's over in Detroit." And the classic "Wound" brings out the best of the band showcasing its great rock ability.
It's great to see one of the precious alternative bands survive. A good band like the Pumpkins knows how to take chances and keep it interesting.
But most importantly, they know how to make a great album. Machina: the machines of God is a great album.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, April 4, 2000