Ayo Jegede
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April 15, 2004
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The Smashing Pumpkins
MACHINA/The Machines of God

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

from Revelation 19:11 - 16

i find the most difficult thing to manage in the Christian cannon is Christ's appearance as a creature predominantly of love and his return as a bellicose warrior sent to drive those unfaithful to God out of the heavenly kingdom. the simple fact is that the former iteration of Christ has seen more public light, with just about every aspect of the modern Christian phalanx seeing Jesus as a warrior of love and not a warrior of destruction. some of Christian faith have discarded his portrayal in Revelations while others have downplayed it, and for good reason. the Christ they grow up with--the one used as a potent pedagogical device of ethics and respect--wielded only the swords of human adoration and wore the protective raiment of his human disciples. his return was acute and unimaginably frightening, leaving many to question whether this was an appropriate end to such an inspirational career. still, people never relented their support for the figure even though they felt his quiet, beautiful majesty was sacrificed for, well, a necessary end. Christians have decided to adhere to Christ in this later form, partly because his earlier presence still remains ever puissant.

MACHINA/The Machines of God is the Pumpkins final studio album under the Virgin label. it features the return of Jimmy Chamberlin on drums ans the brief introduction of Melissa Auf der Maur on bass (replacing D'Arcy, who still recorded the album and appears on the credits). the title offers prescience as to the sound to emerge from the work--a brooding, deeply inimical piece with bombast to spare--but also eerily shows the Pumpkins' last hurrah. let's get one thing clear: Corgan is not content with the band's lot at that point. from the first single--'The Everlasting Gaze'--in which Corgan sings, "You Know I'm Not Dead...," it's obvious that the preceding years in the media spotlight have taken their toll on the group, offering a sense of madness to the disc. 'Try Try Try' is yet another example, as the accompanying video shows dreams shattered by the squalor of a broken life. 'Heavy Metal Machine' and 'Blue Skies Bring Tears' are the harder pieces, perhaps invoking themes found in Adore and reaching towards more art-metal than art-rock. on its own MACHINA is a competent piece from a band whose history is replete with alt-rock perfection including Siamese Dream and their platinum+ Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness.

but i take special note to the last track, 'Age of Innocence' and the following lyrics: "Cause for the moment we are free. We seek to bind our release.
Too young to die, too rich to care, too fucked to swear that I was there. Desolation yes. Hesitation no." in my opinion they purposely reverted to their more popular indie/alt-rock sound earlier in their career, as if to recall their past in the last song of their last album. it is a genuinely eerie feeling to listen to the song, buried in dirges and tirades against radio and corporate music. it recalls a more innocent time and a more tender moment. it recalls a band once glowing with irreverence and artistic zeal now drained and aggravated by the unfortunate mechanics of the music industry.

MACHINA isn't the Pumpkins i knew, but the Pumpkins i knew is buried within MACHINA. the band returns with a weight of anger and disaster that seems almost foreign and frightening as though they underwent a great thematic reconfiguration. yet the aptly titled 'Age of Innocence' dutifully amplifies the already intimate memories attached to the band. memories of Siva, Zero-degree evenings and the sweet flavor of Apples and Oranjes. memories that we can't abjure no matter how hard we try. as a last gasp MACHINA isn't the way many wanted the band to go out, but the choice was always solely theirs. the Smashing Pumpkins chose to end their career with fire and fury and though we may not remember them in that light, it's not so frightening now.

Release date: February 29, 2000
Label: Virgin
Rating: 7.0 / 10

[RMR]