The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina - The Machines of God


2.0
poor

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
November 12th, 2005 | 85 replies | 18,003 views


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist


7 of 12 thought this review was well written

Despite Billy Corgan's claims that the Smashing Pumpkins were meant to be a big, famous band, they really weren't meant for the spotlight of the mainstream. Their strange sense of humour, their overall image varying from college rock to glam band, ever changing music styles and Billy's increasingly strange egocentric personality repelled the media. After the massive success of 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the band slowly started fading away. And in 2000, like a flickering flame they had become, the Smashing Pumpkins finally went out. Somewhere between the inner turmoil, drug problems and record company bullshit, the bright flame that created excellent albums like Siamese Dream and Adore had begun to die, the embers of its mind and heart fading out. What can you do when everything turns to dust? Machina: The Machines of God is the sound of the Smashing Pumpkins falling apart, but the Pumpkins had come close to falling apart in previous albums. So really, this album is the sound of the Smashing Pumpkins not just falling apart, but of the pieces to repair them falling out of piece. Tensions between long-time friends guitarist James Iha and Corgan kept on building, bassist D'Arcy Wretzky's overall disinterest in the band and an alleged drug addiction, Virgin Records reluctance to let Smashing Pumpkins continue with the Machina storyline (more on it later), to specify on what I said before.

After the desolate, Enoesque Adore, the Pumpkins seemed to have moved away permanently from the alternative rock scene that they had embodied for many years. Machina: The Machines of God was a return to rock music. But it wasn't the same fuzz packed sonic attack of previous albums. The Pumpkins, who seem to refuse to maintain one kind of sound, reinvented their guitar sound. Most evident of this is the opening track, The Everlasting Gaze, the grumbling, heavy riff that begins Machina: The Machines of God is surprisingly straightforward. While encompassing all the heaviness of songs like Bullet with Butterfly Wings or Cherub Rock, the sound is rather thin and crunchy like Nu-Metal guitars not creamy and fuzzy like Cherub Rock or a bare caramel chocolate bar that's been under the couch for a while.

So is rock dead like whiny vocalist Billy Corgan said? I guess not, judging by how he made this even after the electronic fiddlings of Adore. But the Smashing Pumpkins didn't ditch the electronic thing completely. That's not necessarily a good thing, on Machina: The Machines of God the Smashing Pumpkins rely heavily on synthesizers throughout the entire album, using it as a buttress to support the weak monotonous rock songs. A thick drizzle of synth coats This Time, a self-indulgent (well, it's Billy Corgan) at-first-catchy-but-then-becomes-boring-as-hell-song. Some songs are actually well off with the synth, like Raindrops + Sunshowers a relaxing song not bothered by heavy guitars. Its driven by drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's cool pulse and a soothing melody, the ambient backdrop shaping the song and not overdoing it like on many other ones. But overall, the synth just sounds like an attempt to embellish the dull songs on Machina: The Machines of God.

Let's say all of the Smashing Pumpkins' instruments went on blind dates together. Well those would be pretty awkward dates, even with Mr. Synth there to try to bring the dates closer together. The Smashing Pumpkins have pretty much no chemistry with each other musically on this album. Chamberlain's blasts of jazz-infused manic drumming is non-existent, they might as well just have kept the drum machine from Adore. Iha and Corgan's usually vibrant partnership of super charged guitar work is gone, now lifeless and overproduced. As for bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, who mysteriously left the band during the recording of Machina: The Machines of God, her basslines were never interesting in the first place. Stand Inside Your Love is probably the only song where the band has a breath of life collectively, and is a favourite among Smashing Pumpkins fans. The climactic love song (Billy claims the only one he's ever written) is garnished by epic tom-toms and an elegant E-Bowed guitar, showing the Pumpkins can still rock out if they try.

Beneath all the overproduced crap, I believe there's a concept to this album, right? Well no one knew at first when the album was released, but Billy Corgan had been working on it since 1996. Well no surprise that no one knew, it's extremely hard to figure out on the actual songs alone, the liner notes contain a big chunk of writing to contribute to the story and online more had been posted. Basically the story is about a rock star named Glass and his band The Machines of God and their rise and fall to fame, Glass in the end finds more meaning to life through the many failures he's encountered. Along with him accompany his 'life partner' June (who has a huge story of her background). The Ghost Children are his audience, who worship his every move. Rock is dead, and Glass is the messiah who seems to be its only future... I still don't understand the story fully. One thing's for sure, the whole story is a hazy mirror to Billy Corgan's experiences. The story is so blatantly set to be like the Smashing Pumpkins, it's really pointless to even figure it out. The story only ends in part in Machina: The Machines of God, and continues even more garbled in Machina 2: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, an album released independently in 25 copies of vinyl and distributed online in mp3. Virgin Records had no more interest in the Smashing Pumpkins new direction. It's understandable, because unless someone was a complete Machina obsessive, chances are he/she never even knew there was a concept. He/she probably simply said "Why do the Pumpkins sound so crappy?"

At 73 minutes, Machina: The Machines of God definitely starts to tire out at around half way. A lot of crap could've been cut, to put it simply. Asinine songs like Heavy Metal Machine and the Inploding Voice lack substance and are dragged on for what seems like an eternity. This record sounds twice as long as the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Fairly good melodies are mainly what drive the songs, nothing really stands out. After the ironic half-optimistic-half-pessimistic melancholic tune Try, Try, Try the album takes a nosedive into complete blandness, the album was actually pretty good before. But like those new Star Wars movies, it's all flashy effects and no real direction or taste. And indeed, the Smashing Pumpkins fell apart after this album, maybe for the best.

Machina: The Machines of God------------> 2 stars



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Neoteric
November 12th 2005



3243 Comments


Nice review, I read round all the coding parts though.

pulseczar
November 12th 2005



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

fixed the goddamn annoying coding

Neoteric
November 12th 2005



3243 Comments


I hate when that happens, My Deftones review, that was hell editing with all the quotes and colours etc.

Comesapart
November 12th 2005



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're review is very well written although I think you were very harsh with the album and my opinion is completely different. As you mentioned the story mirrors the pumpkins career, and as such attempts to describe the nature of celebrity as a simulacrum. In my view this is one of the first true postmodern concept albums made, in the artistic sense of conceptualism, as it references an outside source of reality and recontextualizes it as opposed to simply telling a story. So alot of what you hear are the signatures of a rock band as opposed to simply songs. Billy even alludes strongly to this is several interviews, even bashing rollingstone for their inability to see the lyrics of heavy metal machine as characteristic rock star musing preferring instead to fall back on the old excuse: Billy's so pompous he's singing about how his records would sell even if he died. So if you like a high concept album and are willing to view this in that manner, I highly recommend it.

Rudd13
November 12th 2005



952 Comments


phew. What a read. Well done, Galapogos, but I thought your review was pretty mehhhhh. ;)

Revenge is so very sweet.

pulseczar
November 12th 2005



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

arrr I'll getchoo you little scalliwag *shakes fist*

Zebra
Moderator
November 12th 2005



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Very good review, but it was a little too long for my personal likings.

Smashing Pumpkins are amazing, but this album is crap. I agree with you on almost everything that you said.

Jawaharal
November 21st 2005



1832 Comments


Great work as always you big hunk of kick butt review writing

Cecillianne
November 22nd 2005



19 Comments


Machina was pretty bad, but it had a few nice ones. Stand Inside Your Love is really good, and imo This Time and Wound was quite decent.

gimo80
December 15th 2005



223 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, Machina is actually pretty damn good, but it is way too over produced. There are few adreneline filled moments, but it has still got a bit of magic.

Also, i disagree with Chamberlin's drumming, it is totally manic on The Everlasting Gaze and yes, although not as mad throughout on the other records, it suits the style of the music - it's still jam packed of fill ins and sounds just great.
But yeah, i mildly agree with the guitar chemistry there, and the basslines are just soulless.

Well written review, but not one I totally agree on. Cool, though

nirvanachild5
March 9th 2006



11 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You can look at this album in two retrospects!!

First one being a peice of art, a story told through the lead singer Billy Corgan! Besides stand inside your love, and the everlasting gaze....i cant imagine the whole band playing in them!! so thats where i agree with the review! However, if you look at it as Billy Corgan's baby, then its pretty dam impressive!! It's still got an edge to it before billy corgan found peace and enlightenment in zwan but with the synthesizers!

The second being an album of the band! And that i cant see!

I reckon if the album didnt have the song, "with every light" on it, I would probably hate the cd to.........but that song just picks the album right off the floor at the end of the album making it much better! ide give it at least a 3.5 minimum!

pattern_recognition
March 20th 2006



950 Comments


I'd have to say that I think this is a beautifully produced album...the entire thing just shimmers and glows with waves of weirdly processed instruments (James and Billy claim that they forget how they got half the sounds on here). Just listen to all the different overtones on I Of The Mourning, or the rich, full sound of The Sacred And Profane...
However, Billy's vocals are too high up in the mix, and he sounds more nasal than ever here, which is a problem for a lot of people.
Still, there's some great songs on here, like Stand Inside Your Love, Raindrops + Sunshowers, Age Of Innocence (Billy's most annoying vocal performance, though), and Wound, a truly beautiful little pop song.
There are some weak spots (Try Try Try, Heavy Metal Machine, Glass And The Ghost Children...), but overall I think there's always a new layer of a song to discover, and there's always something new to appreciate sonically whenever I spin this album...
Sorry to go on and on here, your review was extremely well written, but this is my favourite Pumpkins album, and one of my favourite cds ever.
Oh, and the packaging is sweet...This Message Edited On 03.20.06This Message Edited On 03.20.06

YDload
April 4th 2006



1207 Comments


This is the SP album that is most analogous to Led Zeppelin's Presence. It has one really fantastic song (Stand Inside Your Love and Achilles Last Stand, respectively)but the rest of it is mostly forgettable and signals that the band is nearing its end.

RazorBladeLight
April 30th 2006



258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this album. the best song on this Bar none is "Stand Inside Your Love." IMO it's the best love song ever written.
There are some other tracks in their like Everlasting Gaze, Try Try Try and Age of Innocecne once in a while. Yeah, pretty good album, not that great though. Better then Adore IMO.

Two-Headed Boy
October 23rd 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My my.

MrKite
October 23rd 2006



5020 Comments


Try Try Try's video is pretty sweet. its can be pretty sad though.

grungeguy88
October 27th 2006



788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah old SP is better, but this SP is different in a way. I miss the awesome solos and crunchy-heavy guitars, but this is a great album when all is said and done.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2007



15693 Comments


Stand Inside Your Love is pretty awesome, I heard thiat for the first time today, but this review and the comments are scaring me off. Even the fanboys hold at a 3.5.

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins® [AMDISCS]

Oblivioncry
June 11th 2007



601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i never listened beyong the first 6 songs really, after try try try it somehow loses the touch...raindrops is an awesome song^^

anyway i kinda disagree to some point but overall a well review...

Two-Headed Boy
July 6th 2007



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I had the rating at 2.5 for about three minutes, but then brought it down again. Too much suck.

But hell, some songs still own faces. Stand Inside Your Love, Try Try Try, Raindrops, and With Every Light still make great listens.



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