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REVIEWS - SOUNDS

Title:
Machina/the machines of God
Artist(s):
Smashing Pumpkins
El-Camel's Ratings:

Label:
Hut
---BUY THIS ALBUM---
Reviewer:
michael white

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The Pumpkins return from the comparatively calmer waters of 1998 release, Adore, to revisit the sound that made them what they are today. Despite experiencing significant personnel upheaval - Hole's Melissa Auf Der Maur makes her recording debut on bass for one - it's the familiar black and triple-decker formula. This MACHINA pumps and thrashes on the industrial principles of Billy Corgan's studied, sneering vocals; the rhythmic abrasions and sandpaper snarl of grinding guitars; and drums… as in DRUMS, pounding with the ferocious inevitability of a steam hammer - marking the end of a three-year absence for Jimmy Chamberlain.

Their selective synthesis of alternative, metal and goth elements sees them skirting some dangerously pomp/arse territory within. The mechanical impulses might be at the forefront, yet there's enough soul glimpsed to let in the light of humanity. First track - 'The Everlasting Gaze' - declares the Pumpkin's manifesto with all the subtlety of a ceiling crashing in. The promises from this one are largely kept… the irresistibly tight force of Corgan's vision is ultimately convincing enough, assuring that they always seem to deliver more than mere sleight of hand. Current single 'Stand Inside Your Love' is a case in point that you can please most of the people most of the time. It's a stadium-filler of thunderously anthemic proportions and yet, commercially fluffy enough in a sing-a-long with attitude kind of way to satisfy both the militant tendency and the FM constituency.

'Heavy Metal Machine' is the dense, turgid squall of goth on steroids. The lines - "Crashing down, crashing down again" - from 'This Time' are prophetic of the relentless track attack on this album. There are quieter moments where breath is drawn - 'Try, Try, Try' does as it says in the title. The centrepiece is 'Glass And The Ghost Children' - a near ten minutes of pulsating guitar soundscape, poetics, and sampled conversation that explores an emotional/philosophical travelogue washing along on a scale that the Doors would have been proud to call their own.

Thankfully it's not all candle-waving, arms aloft journeys down the middle-lane. There are enough diversions, traffic pile-ups and awkward roadworks to negotiate… allowing the Pumpkins' juggernaut opportunity to unload the bombast now and again. And to confirm that the hard-driving Corgan's, hand-on-the-steel approach, is still a potent vehicle.

michael white

Smashing Pumpkins: MACHINA/the machines of God Hut CD-Album CDHUT59

www.the-raft.com

 



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