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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 13:09 GMT
CD Review: Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins: Machina/The Machines of God (Virgin)
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Few bands can match the Pumpkins for versatility, and new album Machina finds their liquid metal sound morphing into a wide variety of shapes.

More expansive than previous effort Adore, it sees a partial return to the all-out sonic assault of earlier albums, mixed in with influences ranging from The Cure to Bowie and - unlikely as it sounds - U2.
Smashing Pumpkins
The erratic Pumpkins are nearly back to their best
It could have been one almighty mess, but holds together surprisingly well thanks to frontman Billy Corgan's songwriting ability.

Behind the reedy voice and quicksilver blasts of guitar, Corgan's always had an ear for a strong tune - and Machina is an album drenched in melody.

Stand Inside Your Love and Try, Try, Try are the kind of songs even your granny might like, which may cause more hardcore fans to shudder but at least indicates the band's refusal to be typecast.

Corgan also displays a more human face than usual with lyrics which sometimes border on whimsical, although there are still enough dysfunctional, paranoid anthems to deflect any fears that he's about to turn into Donovan.

Jimmy's back

Perhaps the most significant element of Machina's sound is the welcome return of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. His energy and invention are evident throughout - from the supple tempos to the startling quickfire fills, flung like skittles across the pulsing sound.
Siamese Dream
Still a winner: Siamese Dream of 1993
Chamberlin's presence re-introduces a sense of brooding drama and dynamic scope to the band, and ensures that they come through ponderous prog rock tracks like Glass and the Ghost Children relatively unscathed.

Ultimately, Machina is too erratic to rank among the band's best work, but they have at least trimmed away much of the self-indulgence which has dogged them in the past.

Whether the Pumpkins will ever again match the perfect marriage of melody and controlled mayhem found on 1993 album Siamese Dream must be open to question. But their willingness to evolve ensures that they never sound stale, and that alone makes them a band to treasure.

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