Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins "Machina/ the Machines of God"

After the massive success and myriad ideas showcased on the sprawling two hours of Mellon Collie..., Billy Corgan's combo had succeeded in both arriving and appearing to have nowhere left to go.

But the smack problems and sacking of wonder drummer Jimmy Chamberlain forced Corgan to take a new look at his music. The result was 1998's Adore where the drums were more sampled and the beats more mechanized, releasing the singer-songwriter's often overstrained mock-plaintive, fey, and feminine voice from the struggle to make itself heard above the often pulverising music. Despite the trademark effluence of Corgan's songwriting, with its usual morose themes, the more delicate, pop-slanted sound seemed to suggest the 'geek rocker' was finally emerging into the sunlight from the long tunnel of his self pity and contempt. The latest release would seem to scotch such expectations.

While keeping the element of gothic psychodrama beloved by Pumpkinites the music takes a lunge in the direction of 80s alternative rock, giving us a strong taste of one of Corgan's loves, legendary nihilistic new wave band Joy Division. Corgan's often brilliant songwriting continues to combine stomping rock and heavenly melodies, making every second track a near classic, but sometimes you just wish he'd cheer up. Peter Buck once said to a melancholic Jackson Browne, "You're reasonably young, you're talented, you're good-looking. Just shut the fuck up." If only Billy didn't look like a walking advertisement for brain surgery, we could tell him the same.

Tokyo Journal
March, 2000
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