Machina/The Machines of God

breaking-bad-cartoon-wallpaper-hd-wallpapersAfter the unusual, and much less successful Adore Jimmy Chamberlain returned to the Pumpkins and they obviously began to dream big again. The Machina project was originally envisioned by the band as a double-album heavy on concept. However due to the poor reception of Adore the label only allowed it to be released as single-album. There was a whole concept crafted around the record which saw the band made into cartoon characters but the whole story was never fully completed and there are only bits and bobs floating around as to what this was all about.

Musically Machina marks a further departure in style from the music that brought them mainstream success and the sound is more electronic based than even Adore. There is, however, heavier music to be found here than on it’s predecessor. The opening track, The Everlasting Gaze, is one of the bands heaviest songs with a great guitar riff but it also shows how production has become the main focus of Corgan’s vision as the sound is much less raw and in a way less real than their old style and while still a good track it lacks a personal feel that they always used to have. There is nothing inherently wrong with Machina, it’s still an album that deserves to be heard but its clear that the record was made without a clear aim, as the band was falling apart during recording and the concept was never fully realised people were reluctant to buy into it.

While you could not call Machina a poor record it was made during troubled times for the band and is probably the groups weakest effort overall. However it was never given the chance to be released as Corgan had intended it to be and perhaps it loses out because of this, as Corgan is working on remastering all the old Pumpkins albums and promises that this Machina package will be re-released in its complete form we may have something much more interesting on our hands.

Adore

SmashingPumpkins-AdoreIn 1998 the Pumpkins followed up their ’95 epic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness with Adore, perhaps their biggest departure in style yet. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlain the record marked troubled times a band that were only just managing to stay together. It’s a much gentler album than their previous efforts and includes elements of electronica, Corgan also made the decision to use a drum machine for the recording rather than replace Chamberlain.

While Adore doesn’t deliver on the grungy powerful sound fans were used to, it does manage to give a signal that the band were capable of other things. Corgan’s angsty lyricism is still there as always, as well as his overt arrogance that is constantly apparent. There are many tracks that are among the bands most brilliant on the record; the single ‘Perfect’ rivals ‘1979’ for tuneful beauty. And as a whole all the tracks flow together making perhaps the groups most definitive over-riding sound of any album. It does have its flaws though, the use of the drum machine is never really pulled off and makes the album sound tackier than it should and strips some of the purity of the song writing. It also seems less personal than their previous records with the group looking more into a conceptual artistic direction which leaves no room for their young naivety that shone through on their three previous records.

It is, however, one of the bands most interesting albums and for me remains one of my favourite records. It’s better to think of Adore as the end of their golden era rather than the beginning of their downfall which was fast approaching. It’s due for a remaster at some point this year which promises to contain some unreleased material that will she more light on the direction the group were trying to take.

 

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

4MellonCollieHighResWhere do I begin with Mellon Collie and the Infinite? Also what better way to celebrate Music, Movies, General Life and Such’s first anniversary than with a review than with a review of one of the defining albums of my life? I hope to come to you with the answer to both of these difficult conundrums. In the height of the Smashing Pumpkins glory days, hot off the heels of 1993’s Siamese Dream and the surprise success of the Pisces Iscariot mix-tape, the band dropped a behemoth double-album that amped up the scale of the groups, already huge, output. Mellon Collie, spanning across 28 tracks, was an album that not only set the bands career as one of grunge rocks pioneering sound in stone but also gave the world one of, simply, the greatest albums of all time and one that is still to this day underrated.

The records detractors would have that the Pumpkins were always a band whose ambitions was to be a stadium band and for that reason that this album, and all its predecessors, think they’re greater than they actually are. While it would be impossible to argue there’s a slight arrogance in the whole of the Pumpkins aura and that it shines through especially in Mellon Collie, it’s actually quite unfair to claim that said arrogance is misplaced. While the SP’s remain a band that sit just underneath the radar of the mainstream they cannot be denied as one of the most influential groups of all time. This record is a glowing example of a band at their peak of their, musical, song-writing and performing abilities, a group completely unafraid of just doing what they want. It rises and drops as record, flowing from the heaviest rock of any Pumpkins record to the calmest and most minimalistic music the band has ever recorded. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness really is one of the most diverse albums out there. And despite the records arrogance what also comes trough is a sensitive honesty on display of a band really wearing their hearts on their sleeves emotionally as well as musically through this collection of songs. For every, ‘I don’t need your love to disco dance’ there is a ‘Forgotten and absorbed into the Earth below’ to counteract it. And its clear to see that, as well as, wanting to show off they were also releasing a part of their lives.

The answer, then, to my first question at the beginning of this review is that it’s near impossible to know where to start when looking at this beast of an album. But the reason for that is that there’s so much great stuff about it while you try to explain you end up getting up in another. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness could well be, for me, the most perfectly complete album in the world. It remains, and will always remain, a record that I will never stop listening to regularly and will never stop loving.

P.S. In answer to my second question, no.

 

Pisces Iscariot

Smashing_Pumpkins_-_Pisces_Iscariot_-_frontMy next Pumpkins review takes me to the unusual grounds of Pisces Iscariot. The album that isn’t really an album. Pisces Iscariot was actually just a mix tape of some b-sides and covers and things that was put together for the die hard fans at the time. But the record ended up earning platinum status. When listening to the album its not hard to figure out why. It was made during the bands prime, released in between their two biggest and best albums and captured more of the magic of a band who, in my opinion, are on of the greatest of all time.

The album never feels as though it’s a collection of songs, it holds its own sounds like an album that was made to be an album. It features a number of favourite tracks the Pumpkins have ever done. A Girl Named Sandoz is a cover but has become one of my favourite Pumpkins tracks, also their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide gives the original a run for its money. In terms of original material on the record the versatility of the tracks go some way to showing you how diverse a band the Pumpkins were flowing from the calming Soothe into the distorted grunge of Frail and Bedazzled is just the beginning of an unpredictable collection none of which disappoints.

The 2012 re-release and re-master of the album has come under a bit of criticism as there apparently some sound quality issues on some of the tracks, to my untrained ears I didn’t notice anything though to be honest. And with the box set you are also treated to a DVD of the groups first ever TV performance which includes a  number of early tracks I’d never heard before and are actually awesome. Overall Pisces Iscariot is very close to being my favourite Pumpkins record there is, an amazing achievement for a mix tape.

 

Siamese Stoker and the Birth of CAGE RAGE – 16.03.12

Well posting over the last two weeks has been absolutely diabolical. As you can see I’ve only managed two reviews in two weeks, as well as missing both Wednesday’s to do my weekly update but, I am here now and I’m going to change my weekly update day to Saturday’s simply because I can. The two reviews that I’ve posted for your perusal in the last fortnight are Stoker and continuing in my Smashing Pumpkins series my summary of Siamese Dream, perhaps one of my favourite albums of all time.

You may be wondering then what is this CAGE RAGE mentioned in the title and I shall explain. Despite the looming deadlines and copious amounts of essays I need to be writing me and my house mate have set ourselves the task of working our way chronologically through the greatest actor of all times filmography, Nicolas Cage, so far we’re three films and I plan to get at least two of them reviewed on here by this time next week, there’ll be a page on the blog dedicated to all things Cage, and I hope it will be something you’ll enjoy. If you’re wondering what inspired us undergoing this mammoth challenge need I say more than this:

Now before I leave you to ponder on the greatness of my Cage project there is one other thing I must show you. Julian Langer is singer-songwriter from Devon, someone I used to go to school with, and he has recently been working on an album. With album he was going for a DIY feel all recorded at his home and he has just released the first single which is available to download for free on sound cloud. As for the song itself we wrote it as he was just finishing treatment for cancer and the track is about the fear and hope he had moving forward from that. So here’s the song hope you like it and feel free to leave any feedback you might have, watch this space for a review of the album when it is released:

https://soundcloud.com/julian-langer/northern-lights

Siamese Dream

smashing-pumpkins-siamese-dreamContinuing with my Pumpkins series we move on to 1993’s Siamese Dream. The album that saw them rise to be alternative rock God’s known all over the world. The album is to this day regarded as a seminal work, and one of the most influential rock albums in history. I’m going to give it a go at describing why its just so damn awesome.

From the moment the record burst into life with opening track ‘Cherub Rock’ its clear that the band have changed since Gish, not only because of better production values, but the overall feeling of grandeur is amped up so much higher. The music has a much more immersive feel. You can also notice change in how much more willing they are to be weird, they forget conventions which I feel may have been holding them back during the Gish-era and go their own completely unique way. The whole album has such unique sound, no record ever has ever sounded quite like it and that, therefore sets out as part of an elite group of albums. As well as creating the feeling of grandeur, that was later to amplified further with Mellon Collie, they still retain their ability to be utterly angst-ridden and melodramatic, with the anthemic ‘Today’ or even the reflective, melancholic ‘Disarm’. The album has a grungy sound but it is so much more than grunge, it makes grunge all the more awkward and less relatable than Nirvana or Pearl Jam.

It, simply put, is one of the greatest albums of all time and I will always love it with all my heart.