Smashing Pumpkins ---Machines of God / Virgin
---Reviewed by Peter Rossi
The Smashing Pumpkins' story is hauntingly comparable to that of a Latin American regime. The Pumpkins formed in the late eighties in Chicago. Their blend of musical talent, true diversity (racial, gender, artistic), idealism, ambition, and marketing smarts made them the odds-on favorite as "the next big thing." In 1990, they strategically fended off fat record deals from the majors and opted for an indie deal with Caroline Records. They solidified their power base with the then burgeoning "alternative rock" crowd. Revolution was in the air and the stage was set. In 1991, the Smashing Pumpkins released Gish. The Pumpkins' junta had toppled the old regime and their album became an instant indie manifesto.
But like all juntas after a revolution, the Smashing Pumpkins began to buckle under the ego of one despot, Billy Corgan. And in keeping with the tyrant's boundless appetite for power, Billy Corgan takes on God in the latest album MACHINA -The Machines of God.
The Everlasting Gaze, starts with the line "You know I'm not dead." Page one of the album jacket also has the line in bold-faced print. Eva Braun probably heard the same thing in the bunker. It is also interesting to hear how low D'arcy's bass is in the mix. The vocals (Corgan) and guitars (Corgan/Iha) are way out in front of the rhythm section. Very un-Pumpkins. In Stand Inside Your Love, Billy Corgan demonstrates yet again that he is still really just a trapped little boy, and cannot be trusted in love. Girls, stay away! Track 6 asks "what is our mission?" and track 8 closes with "as the curtain falls, we bid you all goodnight." The Imploring Voice, is a sweet, sincere love letter and pep talk to his drummer in recovery, Jimmy Chamberlin. Clearly, Corgan's songs and rotten rock star antics make for irresistible barnyard-sized targets. And on many levels, the album is perfect Pumpkins with its hypnotic sweeps and narcotic outbursts. This is a band that, at its core, is volatile and dynamic. And as singer/songwriters go, Billy Corgan has defined a violent vulnerability like no other. In The Crying of Mercury, Billy Corgan is truly tragic. The song is organic; music gently weaves around the line "This is the song I've been singing my whole life." It's disappointing, however, that Corgan's Machines of God spend too much time purging but never get around to taking on the Big Guy. It's a little sad to listen to this album as just a front man's final attempt to put things right with his fellow bandmates and his fans. But I guess legacies are important.
Pop / Interscope
---Reviewed by Peter Rossi
In 1991, I was traveling with friends in Thailand. We were in search of Paradise, and we thought we had found it. (I know how bad this sounds, but please indulge me.) We had found a remote island in the Gulf of Siam, with lush jungle, thatched huts, and miles of deserted white sand beaches. With the exception of the Thai teenage boy who managed the place, we were completely alone.
On our second day there, I was reclining on the beach, playing chess with a friend when I heard it. It sounded like a scream from the jungle so I turned around to look. But what I saw and heard was scarier than any jungle beast. It was the Thai teenager. He was thumb-slapping a broom and devoutly singing along with the chorus of "Tommy the Cat". Say baby! SAY BABY! At that moment, Primus became transcendental and I wholly accepted the irony of the old Primus show chant: Primus Sucks!
I adored early Primus. Duh! But by Sailing the Seas of Cheese, I had lost interest in the band. Maybe I was fatigued from the mind-blowing riffage schizophrenia of their live shows. Or maybe the "pirate-ditty" gag had just worn thin. Who cares? The good news is that on their latest album, Antipop, Primus is alive and Sucking very well, thank you. On this album, Primus has ganged up with all their cool friends to produce and partake in their weirdness. Rager Tom Morello helped out/produced on Electric Uncle Sam and Power Mad. It's nice to hear Les, Larry, and Brain slap, screech, and bash their instruments while taking a few pot shots at the U.S. government. Natural Joe offers a sweet but spooky take on life in Petaluma. Pals James Hetfield and Jim Martin help Primus crush large metal bunkers in the ever-psychedelic Eclectic Electric. But the best track is the one produced by Tom Waits, Coattails of a Deadman. This song is clearly the most interesting and the most non-Primus song on the album. It starts with a silent movie horror film feel and eventually gets spaghetti western, as a tale of a suicide and an avaricious widow is spun. Primus is taking a cheap shot at Courtney Love. Fine. But now they are wise enough to have Tom Waits orchestrate.
And what's more? A hidden track! Seven minutes into track 13, Primus indulges their diehard fans with a new, maniacal version of the Suck on This oldie, The Heckler. It's sick, the riffage! Please, somebody bring them up on charges. Some might think: "OK, Primus, maturing but still cool." Forget it. Primus (still) Sucks! It's just a matter of opinion.
Dad ---Leisure Noise / Sire
---Reviewed by B.C. Heathcliff
The exuberance of Gay Dad's first single, Joy, is addictive. This album is a rejection of pansy Brits who piss me off with their pomposity and lackluster songs. Gay Dad has a dreamy moodiness layered in vocals and guitar swoops, most notably in Black Ghost. The slower songs have a meditative quality that's warm without gloominess. Songs like Pathfinder and Mystic are a different kind of rainy day song - not the depressing kind - rather the dreamy quiet state that happens while watching the rain stream down the windows.
At least half of the songs are shouts of joy at life, most notably Joy, Dateline, and To Earth with Love. Dateline is a particularly fun ride through time and reaffirms that the darkness of the 80's really is over and it's time to come out in the 90's to dance (in our platforms) in the sunshine. Joy is all about casting aside our pitiful pot of cynicism and remembering to dance for joy, backed by a whoopin-it-up guitar and throaty vocals. This CD is a good soundtrack for motorcycle rides along Highway 84 through the mountains on a sunny day. Patches of dappled, shadowed beauty interspersed with sunshine straight-aways.
The Dues / Sub Pop
---Reviewed by John Kane
From Sweden but sounding like they were raised in Detroit by the Stooges and the MC5, The Hellacopters are currently the heirs apparent to that once great American music known as garage punk. On this first stateside issue of their second album, Payin' the Dues, these long haired rockers offer up super fast, loud, and snotty songs that are ideal soundtracks for the lewd behavior of your choice. Being very much the "all-songs-sound -the-same" kind of band, singling out specific songs for praise would be silly. Suffice it to say that the music rocks and there's lots of attitude and stuff about damnation and cars and being a badass, which along with the hyperactive playing and screamed lyrics make them seem somewhat cartoonish. It's kind of like they're the Kiss version of the MC5. And that's a compliment, by the way. As a nice bonus the people at Sub Pop have tacked on an extra CD of the Hellacopters live show for no extra charge.