So Billy‘s grown his hair back with Dr [a]Robert Plant[/a]’s Patented Scalp tonic, D’Arcy‘s left because she didn’t think the studded denim waistcoats were her style, and every copy of the record comes with vouchers for a bottle of bourbon and a free hearing test. Advance reports about ‘MACHINA/The Machines Of God’ have suggested that The Smashing Pumpkins‘ fifth album was the last flight to Metal Valhalla, a bloody, self-flagellating atonement for Corgan‘s prior assertion that rock was dead. For one brief, gloomy moment, first track ‘The Everlasting Gaze’ – The Riff That Ate The Western Seaboard, Billy peeling back the lace and pancake of ‘Adore’ to stick his judiciously hidden fangs into Ozzy‘s wrinkled neck – appears to presage the Pumpkins‘ finest hour. Unfortunately, it soon turns into the longest day.
Producing an album that distorts time so each second is the temporal equivalent of [I]War And Peace [/I]is almost a perverse triumph. They might not like the goth, but the goth likes them, and ‘MACHINA…’, at odds with its mean, lean reputation, can’t resist flounces and frills, wandering about in pale distress like a girl in a second-hand wedding dress. Tracks like ‘I Of The Mourning’ and ‘Glass And The Ghost Children’ are – who’d have thought it? – on the dark side, like spilling absinthe over Robert Smith‘s long black overcoat is on the dark side. Yet angst is what matters here and whether it comes with metal issues, pop issues, or plain old children-of-the-night issues, doesn’t matter. If this is metal, it’s for a demographic to whom black sabbath is what happens when you haven’t done your Monday morning maths homework.
[/I], he cries on ‘Heavy Metal Machine’, glam sparkle as ludicrous as Marilyn Manson’s spandex, while ‘I Of The Mourning’ sees him sighing about the power of [I]”songs on the radio”[/I]. Hence, perhaps, the flit from the pop whimsy of ‘With Every Light’ to the bizarre ‘Save A Prayer’ tribute ‘Raindrops And Sun Showers’.
Yet this doesn’t sound like a band in love with the potential and power of music – it sounds like an inert synthesis of all the petulance and ambition that have trailed The Smashing Pumpkins since Corgan first pushed his larynx through the juicer. ‘MACHINA/The Machines Of God’ takes the divine and makes it into engineering. All the time, what they needed was a spanner in the works.