The Smashing Pumpkins – Machina (2000)

My heart sank when I reached for the faux-woodchip of this CD case. Machina was the first release to test my love for The Smashing Pumpkins. Needless to say I don’t associate it with fluffy clouds and sugary treats. The giddy, blind ignorance I felt as a teenager strained underneath the bulk of post-Wretsky material and was finally cast out to the underbelly of all things crap with Zwan and Oceania. Despite the relatively subtle warnings of Adore, my copy of which I’ve since sold on, this is where the paint began to crack.

To its credit, Machina isn’t the monumental disaster I originally thought it was. Spurned on by all that disappointment, I harshly threw the album to one side – and I haven’t really given it the calm, critical second chance it deserves.

Some of the tracks are obviously applaudable. “The Everlasting Gaze”, “Try, Try, Try”, “I of the Mourning” and narrowly “Stand inside Your Love” sound like The Smashing Pumpkins with Melissa Auf der Maur on bass. This is ironic because Corgan practically recorded Machina alone in the studio. Ms Auf der Maur was an afterthought, a non-influence brought in to fill a gap on the stage. If they were on an EP, the four tracks would be comparable to PixiesBossanova – clearly different, but not detestable.

Unfortunately the rest are poor attempts at the mainstream, something Billy Corgan clearly cannot ‘do’. Who wants to hear someone capable of writing “Thirty Three” compromise with “Wound”? Or have “Geek USA” replaced with “The Sacred and Profane”? Sure, the songs will play ok when the sun’s out. ‘Feeling happy? Got a smile on your face? Are you in a forgiving mood? Why not listen to Machina?!’ That’s not a good strap line, is it?

Even then the tracks must be disguised as background music to get away with their utterly, utterly basic lyrics:

And I'm just trying to Walk with you Between the raindrops I'll save a prayer for you So lost and longing to Be dragged through dirty streets Wrapped up in clean white sheets

I mean really, Billy, really? Did someone knock you over the head in 1999 and tell you to give Hyundai a call?

A session with Machina ultimately turns my face into a breakdown straight out of RADA. Emotions run high. My cheeks start doing gymnastics. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I do both at the same time and hope the deciding panel think I’m entertaining. Then I carefully, quietly pack the heart of my troubles back into its CD case and put it away for a time when I’m more mature and can deal with these things they call human emotions more thoroughly.

- Tiffany Daniels

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