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Machina/the machines of God
By some bizarre coincidence, the new album from The Smashing Pumpkins hits the shops within a week of Oasis' new offering, as both bands approach their latest outing on the back of line-up unheavals, mounting media opprobrium and a previous release which sold roughly half of the one before that.
George Byrne, 02 Mar 2000
By some bizarre coincidence, the new album from The Smashing Pumpkins hits the shops within a week of Oasis' new offering, as both bands approach their latest outing on the back of line-up unheavals, mounting media opprobrium and a previous release which sold roughly half of the one before that. But while the Gallaghers have been pressing the flesh in a desperate attempt to push Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, Pumpkins' mainman Billy Corgan has instead opted for the non-cooperation policy of the pampered superstar, all of which is unlikely to aid the frankly preposterous conceit which is MACHINA/the machines of God.
The Pumpkins' 1995 double-album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness found seven million buyers for its combination of adolescent angst and pseudo-grunge nouveau metal but the electronic textures of Adore clicked with less than half that number, so it's perhaps unsurprising that Corgan has reverted to what he knows best, previously sacked drummer Jimmy Chamberlin returning to the fold for added metallic muscle.
This artistic backtracking may make sound commercial sense when it comes to hauling ass around the enormodomes of the mid-West (those depressed teenagers buy an awful lot of t-shirts, after all) but it makes listening to the po-faced posturings which litter this overblown mess of an album well-nigh unbearable.
How the hell any sane human is expected to take song titles like 'The Imploding Voice', 'The Sacred And Profane', 'Glass And The Ghost Children', 'I Of The Mourning' and - sweet Jesus! - 'The Crying Tree Of Mercury' seriously is beyond me. And then there's the music . . .
The opening track 'The Everlasting Gaze' is a fuzzy, vaguely industrial stomper which is irritating enough until all the instruments drop out halfway through, leaving Corgan's voice exposed for ten seconds of toy-throwing from his platinum-plated pram - I swear, as comically inept vocals go it's on a par with Bobby Gillespie's side-splitting "rap" at the beginning of Primal Scream's 'Pills'.
It's back to more familiar Mellon Collie territory for 'Raindrops + Sunshine' and 'Stand Inside Your Love' and for the next fifteen minutes the album drifts by pleasantly enough, until you realise that what you're effectively listening to is a hybrid between the least-offensive aspects of Simple Minds and the least-inspirational moments of mid-period New Order. 'Try, Try, Try' boasts the album's prettiest tune (even if it is a dead ringer for OMD's 'Souvenir'), 'This Time' tips the nod to War-time U2 and isn't half bad, but on the 10-minute horror that is 'Glass And The Ghost Children' the only solace for my fevered mind was trying to imagine what 'The End' would sound like played by a drunken Mission - yeah, that bad!
I won't even attempt to torment you with the lyrics, but suffice to say that Billy Corgan belongs to the Met. Office school of scribblers with the occasional foray into Racing Post territory (a lot of "running", "falling" and "crashing down" . . . pretty topical with Cheltenham coming up).
In essence, MACHINA/the machines of God is a dour, overlong slab of tedious goth metal. And on this evidence, Billy Corgan has nothing of even the vaguest worth to communicate.