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So yeah... I spent a lot of time with these albums and always came back to them even when I thought the first was their weakest. The story that Corgan tried to tell before he was forced to break it into two fractured halves became of interest to me the more I listened, and it became a sort of puzzlebox for me to figure out, especially when Corgan said that he was planning on putting them in their "original order" for their eventual re-release on vinyl. Well, here's my crack at the order and the story that it's trying to tell. Forgive the length.
1The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God


The Everlasting Gaze:
This rager kicks off the album in an indisputably perfect way—introducing us to our protagonist Zero and his kickass rock band. They’re on top of the world, but much like Billy at the point of writing this record, he feels that there’s pressure for him to fall off of it. “You know I’m not dead” is his declaration of his importance as a musician in a landscape that is slowly but surely starting to forget him, and his anger at that.
2The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Let Me Give the World to You:
While his music career might be a bit on the rocks, he’s perfectly contented with his home life. His wife urges him on and believes in his art the whole way through, the one thing that consoles him in his life besides his music—and to him that’s enough. They’re very in love. Sequence wise, I kinda hate that it sandwiches between the opener and the following track which I feel would be an insane one-two punch (seriously, listen to them back to back). But this track doesn’t really fit anywhere else in the concept before things turn south, and it’s just too easy to imagine this fitting snuggly as a radio-friendly single near the front of the album.
3The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

Blue Skies Bring Tears:
AKA shit gets real. Smashed against the loving haze of the previous track, one night Zero is thrown into an apocalyptic vision of the future. A war-torn Earth is a nuclear wasteland, and the lyrics describe the horrors which he sees. As he wanders the land looking for life, the feeling of dread sinks in that this is the destined future, and that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it (“It’s about time/It’s about drawing near”). He struggles to wake up and escape the nightmare before he stumbles on an unspeakable horror that causes him to nearly lose his mind. The static of the song rises and rises while he repeats the omen “Blue Skies Bring Tears”.
4The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Lucky 13:
This is sort of the visceral “what the fuck” song that details his reaction to his vision. Throwing him into a state of mental chaos, Zero panics and is unsure what to do. Confident only that the end of his world is coming “You are so fucked/It has begun,” he realizes that he has to make a decision—and quick—concerning how he can save the world and his wife from this ultimate fate.
5The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Glass (Album Version):
Zero has a brainwave—he’ll use his music to warn the world of what’s about to happen in a last ditch effort to save it. Despite his wife’s growing worry, he rebrands his band with a new sound, renaming himself Glass and melting fans’ faces off with rejuvenated spirit.
6The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Iha’s voice mimes that of Glass’s wife as she watches him dive deeper and deeper into the madness of his vision. She’s not sure what to make of it, and he refuses to see a doctor to even check to see if he’s suffering from hallucinations. As he grows more and more intense, she draws away from him, and unable to reach him, she leaves him.
7The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Cash Car Star (EP Version)
Burying the pain of his wife’s abandonment, he catapults further into his music, incorporating apocalyptic lyrics of his vision with what he sees as causing it—rampant capitalism and patriotism. As the song gets crazier and crazier, he realizes that he’s playing into these causes rather than raising awareness of their harms, and that his fans are merely excited by his change in sound than actually believing his message.
8The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

Glass and the Ghost Children:
Disenchanted by this discovery, Glass falls into a deep depression, finally allowing himself to feel the absence of his wife and the pain he’s caused her. He revisits the apocalypse in his mind through an inner monologue and realizes that there’s no escape from the future, and there’s nothing more he can do to stop it… After the spoken word portion, he accepts the end and reveals the true cause for all of his hysteria—in his vision he saw his wife’s dead body being eaten by spiders—a loss that he’s been trying at all costs to avoid. Finally coming to terms with his, he realizes that he can’t leave her to die alone and decides to quit his prophesying to be with her again.
9The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

Raindrops + Sunshowers:
He opens up to his estranged wife. He painfully tells her exactly what he’s seen and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Upon hearing of her death, she suddenly realizes that even though his acts were erratic, they were not fully selfish. (“Rain falls on everyone/The same old rain/And I’m just trying to walk with you/Between the raindrops”) She implores for him to try to get help and medication, and finally he relents. He’s not convinced that it’ll work, but he wants to do what he can to make her happy.
10The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

Try Try Try:
Months later, he’s fully medicated and hasn’t had an episode in a very long time. He and his wife are happy again, maybe more than ever before. The band just finished a tour—and while the fans aren’t happy with his brighter turn in sound, he is. He realizes that through perseverance and love, he can make the world a better place. He vows that he will never turn away from his wife again, and that no matter what, he will “try to hold on.”
11The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

The Crying Tree of Mercury:
And just like that, one night he’s thrown back into it. A far worse vision than before, he sees the moment the world dies as a nuclear bomb strikes the middle of their city. As he watches on in horror, he laments that he did nothing to stop it while he was trying to suppress the visions that were sent to him, “This is the song I’ve been singing my whole life. He expresses frustration that in trying to save his wife, he ended up ignoring his destiny and casting the world in danger. “I did it all for you”…“This love will stand as long as you/There’s really no excuse.”
12The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

This Time:
His wife now permanently scared away from the ferocity of his premonitions and his newfound refusal to seek help, their relationship is in shambles, which pairs with his visions of the future, “Crashing down/Crashing down again.” He ironically comments on the useless advice that he has been given his whole life, including his wife’s words that led him astray in the first place “Only love can win.” He expresses some regret at their breakup, unsure if he’s doing the right thing, but he eventually decides “I need to sing my song while I still can,” while at the same time he’s lost his means to do so, plunging his future in doubt. (I admit the irony here is a bit of a stretch because the song can be interpreted as serious also lyrically, but I think Crogan’s delivery opens up multiple avenues. Also I love the idea of ending the first disc with “As the curtain falls/We bid you all goodnight.”)

13The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music


Here’s to the Atom Bomb:
Months later, his uncertainty at his choice is now embittered by time. This song is a bit of a drunken stupor as he rants of his anger at society and his wife who’s abandoned him, knowing that the apocalypse will be coming, and that no one will ever hear his warnings. The dream-like tone that contrasts the biting sarcasm in the lyrics could imply that he’s self-medicating so has not to feel the pain of his visions as seriously. This pleasant fade-out contrasts harshly with—
14The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

White Spyder:
The venomous opening notes shriek across the sky as the endtimes that Ghost foretold begin to unfold. Shocked back into a state of panic, he starts to remember his inciting vision of his wife’s death, mentioning the same spiders devouring her as he did in “Glass and the Ghost Children.” He looks back on their relationship, realizing that in pushing her away, he only deprived them of spending their final moments together, hating himself more than he ever has as the world crumbles around him, “And now I remind her/Of every single liar/.
15The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Blue Skies Bring Tears (Machina II):
Part II of the apocalypse duology of songs, Ghost recounts the violence and hysteria he sees as civilization tears itself apart “Wind blows the temples down/Blood fills the exit tunnels streaking out of town.” This song is a far more aggressive and violent version of the song featured on the first half, mirroring his visions of what would come with what’s actually happening now that he’s trapped in the middle of it. The songs spirals out of control as the world completely falls apart and leaves him alone in the middle of it.
16The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Deeply traumatized from the horrors he has seen, Ghost eschews any other surviving groups that remain and instead wanders the wastelands of civilization that lay before him. With this ethereal and hazy song, he takes on the form almost of a literal ghost, aimlessly searching the rubble for something we’re not sure of. The song alternately gets more aggressive and calm as he continues to fight the battle inside his head of guilt and powerlessness.
17The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

In My Body:
A continuation of “Satur9”’s ghostly dejection, “In My Body” serves as him becoming less numb and trying again to find purpose in this new broken world. It’s an entirely internal struggle (as the title implies) over whether to feel again or whether to shut himself off forever and always from the world, “In my body/You’ll never find me/You’ll never pull me out”. (Goddamn this is like one of the best tracks on this entire thing holy shit I love this song.)
18The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Suddenly, he/we realize where he’s been wandering to this entire time. Shaken from his self-loathing, he looks up and sees that he’s walked the entire distance from the burning city to he and his wife’s old house they shared together in the country. Stuck in the nostalgic joy of the place, he recounts memories of their happiness as he wanders the halls, forgetting all the horror that’s come before. He comes to somehwat, despairing at the change that’s come before but remembering how important the past was, he sings with newfound clarity and purpose, “Love is everything I want.”
19The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

I of the Mourning:
He continues to stare and wander throughout the house, taking on a new joy with the world around him. As he climbs the steps to the attic, suddenly something catches his gaze. “I blow the dust off my guitar, in the attic with the stars” as he saddles it up to him and plays his first notes in what might be years. He shreds and cries as he sings an old love song he wrote for his wife, and suddenly all his despair and bitterness is erased. Realizing the pure healing power of music, he decides that he should share his new discovery to the lost souls of the world.
20The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

The Sacred and Profane:
Zero goes back out into the wasteland, spreading his newfound message and trying to bring hope to those that lost it. He takes their pain inward and tries to make something out of it through music, “You’re all a part of me now.” However, he’s not entirely convinced that he’s doing everything he can to help, “Will love ever really be enough?” Doubting this, he’s unsure of his future but knows for a fact that he’s
21The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Try, Try, Try (Machina II):
He finds his wife at one of the remaining survivor camps, but she’s deeply wounded. They share a bittersweet talk as they each come to terms with the fault they played in each other’s lives. He finally apologizes to her for all that he did, and even though she’s still hurt by his actions and that will never change, she forgives him and frees him of some of the guilt that he carries with him. As they being to reminisce and bond again, she begins to slip from consciousness. He begs her to “Try to hold on,” using the words she used on him in one of his darkest moments to bring him back to her. The more acoustic/natural sound of this version plays against the poppiness of the version on the first disc, emphasizing this pivotal moment for them and the grown stakes this time around.
22The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

If There Is a God (EP Version):
As his wife continues to slip away from him, he lets out a final prayer. Showing his newfound faith in God and life, he pleads that God, whether it be a He or She, will save his wife and give him this one last chance to redeem himself. The prayer doesn’t save her, but in her final moments she tells Ghost how proud she is of him and that he’s been able to use his gifts to save people who need it the most in these dark times. As she slips away, he realizes that they’ve both found a kind of peace.
23The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

Stand Inside Your Love:
Moved deeply by his wife’s final words, he takes up his guitar and shreds to the heavens a song he wrote for her years ago. He shares his pain and joy, revealing that his faith has not been shaken by her death, “And for the first time/I feel as though I am reborn in my mind.” He vows to heed her words and to continue to be a man that she will be proud of; not someone who needs to save everyone, but one who reminds them of their humanity despite everything that’s happened.
24The Smashing Pumpkins
Machina/The Machines of God

He realizes that his visions never meant for him to stop what was coming, but to prepare him so he would be able to keep humanity going with his art and music in their darkest hour. He champions those around him’s survival and that if they too can find a purpose, humanity will be able to carry on for eternity, “So take it all/I doubt if we/Will know it’s gone.” He comes to terms with his past faults and takes pride in knowing that he’s become the man his wife knew he could be. It wasn’t the end of the world. Now he sees it as a new beginning “Last night I turned around and thought I saw myself turning/Last night I turned around and thought I saw the world ending.” Ending the album on a much-earned cheesy note, the song’s brightness seems to come from a real place of growth and emotion. I think this is a perfect closer even if my interpretation of the story is completely wrong. “If you wait I will wait/Taste I will taste/If you love I will love/Run I will run/To my last breath."
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