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Smashing Pumpkins: MACHINA/the machines of God

Smashing Pumpkins
MACHINA/the machines of God
Label: Virgin
File Under: Ghost in the MACHINA
Rating: 87

    Reader Reviews
Over the course of the last few years, the Smashing Pumpkins have been the latest in a long string of bands whose concerns seemed to be about everything except making music. First there was touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin's death from an accidental drug overdose and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's firing for his role in Melvoin's demise as well as for his own chronic drug abuse. Whether as a result of the turmoil or not, the band's 1998 album, Adore, seemed strangely disconnected and was deemed a failure, even though it did manage to sell a million copies.

More recently, bassist D'Arcy Wretzky quit the band and then was arrested for possession of crack cocaine. A rehabbed Chamberlin rejoined the group, and former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur replaced D'Arcy. But then the group members had a falling out with their manager, Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy), and their record label, Virgin. Running through it all has been guitarist-vocalist-songwriter-auteur Billy Corgan's megalomania, which has on occasion made him seem like music's biggest blowhard.

That's a lot of extra-musical stuff to keep up with, even discounting a potentially bigger problem — the shift of listener tastes away from alternative rock, of which Corgan was the king back in 1995-96 but claimed to no longer believe in by the time of Adore.

Apparently, he believes in it once again. MACHINA/the machines of God feels like a comeback in almost every way. "You know I'm not dead," Corgan asserts in a fierce, nasal sneer at the album's outset, and he spends the next 73 minutes proving just how true that is.

Co-produced by Corgan and Flood, who also co-helmed the board for the sprawling Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, MACHINA has a similar epic quality to it, with raging rockers such as "The Everlasting Gaze," "Heavy Metal Machine," and "The Imploding Voice" alternating with dreamily melodic tunes like "This Time," "Wound," and "Try, Try, Try." Along the way, Corgan searches for God and love, disses drug use, and seeks to reclaim his place in the alt-rock pantheon.

At nearly an hour and a quarter, the album does feel a little long, especially when it falls prey to the ponderousness that made Adore drag, such as the 10-minute saga "Glass and the Ghost Children." Yet when Corgan & Co. keep it simple, blasting out one guitar-bass-drums anthem after another, MACHINA stands alongside Gish, Siamese Dream, and parts of Mellon Collie as some of the Pumpkins' best work. Welcome back, Billy. You know, it's true: you're really not dead. Daniel Durchholz

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