I bought this album in Kunming, China for a the equivilant of one U.S. dollar. Thankfully I did not have to spend more on it.

The are some scathing reviews of this album out there, better put than my musically uncritical mind ever could, and I was initially inclined to agree with them. Yes, their hyped returning drummer Jimmy Chamberlain sounds exactly like a drum machine. Yes, Flood "deep-fried" their sound into slimy mush. Yes, it goes on... and on... (See http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/s/smashing-pumpkins/machina.shtml for a particularly broiling review.)

Actually, I found that this album makes pretty decent background music. It's not distracting. It's, um, consistent. It actually sounds pretty good in that respect. But it's nothing like Siamese Dream. Just have fun staring at the liner artwork and don't bother yourself with the lyrics. And take what fans say with a grain of salt.

This album is Smashing Pumpkins's last studio album. They intend to break up. Maybe it's time.

Machina artwork

The liner notes have lots of artwork which is supposed to go with the music and the story of the album. It's all done as paintings and etchings by Vasily Kafanov. Since it seems to be such a big part of the overall experience of listening to the album, I have created a listing of all seventeen plates and a brief description of each. You should see them for yourselves.

All of these plates have a very dark feel. In addition, most of them have very large numbers of symbols and random shapes scattered all over the plate. This adds a sort of texture to everything.

  • Cover. The two lovers lay next to each other in a bowl. There is a triangle inscribed in a circle in the upper left corner and a circle with symbols surrounding it in the bottom right corner. The sun and moon are shown on opposite sides from the rest of the plates.
  • Plate II - The soul as living proof. An angel sits inside a large Erlenmeyer flask, holding a snake in one hand and a cup in the other. There is a fire under the flask, and it is surrounded by birds. The sun and the moon are shown above on the sides.
  • Plate III - The chemist brings spark. We see a church steeple to the left, a bowed head in the center with a snake approaching the matching hand, and a woman on a bicycle towards the top. Scattered about are eyes, symbols, animals, and skeletons.
  • Plate IV - Let the truth ring divine. An angel holds a large symbol up in its right hand. There is a very bright light coming from the symbol.
  • Plate V - Desire holds the moment still. The two lovers are shown in a garden in each other's arms. Several large flowers are prominently shown in this garden.
  • Plate VI - As the machines resume. The silhouettes of four people are shown standing on top of a large pile of debris. Thousands of people surround the pile looking up at the four.
  • Plate VII - Peering deep into a mirror untrue. A woman wades through the ocean as rain falls. She is holding the surface of the ocean up in her left hand as though it is a cloth.
  • Plates VIII & IX - So empowered, the lovers negate the blinding brilliance of love. This is a diptych (it's two panels wide). On the left plate is a man with some sort of headphone-looking device on his head. The cord runs out to the right plate. He holds a dagger in his left hand, ready to strike. On the right plate is a woman standing in front of a statue, holding the symbol from the fourth plate in her hand.
  • Plate X - The heavens cry her mortal thirst. The woman kneels down in a wasteland with skeletons all around her. Snakes are coiled around her and she appears to be stabbing herself with something. The sky is cut by lightning.
  • Plate XI - The I of the radio. In the center, there is a circle composed of two creatures swallowing the tails of each other. In the center of this circle is an eye surrounded by blue. Outside the circle, there's the sun and moon, a variety of people and creatures, a fire, and more symbols.
  • Plate XII - In all things the symbols reign supreme. Lots and lots of symbols, two hands with the palm-reading lines on them, and so forth. In the center is written, "It is finished when seven are one".
  • Plate XIII - Torn inside the machines of light. The two lovers are placed in coffins beside each other.
  • Plate XIV - Turning tears into oceans, words into sand. A person's head is shown rising up out of the ground, their palms underneath that. The eyes and mouth are closed. Out of the top of the head grows a much larger hand. On each fingertip is one of the recurring symbols.
  • Plate XV - detail of: Bracing against the inevitable doubt. A profile of the front of a head grows up like a tree, with a woman sitting on top. Behind this head is a circle with a start inside it. To the left is a mountain with a cave.
  • Plate XVI - This echo rings forever on. Four people are shown walking away from the front of the plate. One holds the symbol from the fourth plate and one holds a staff with a snake attached to the top.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.