Clutch – Sunrise On Slaughter Beach review

Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.

I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.

The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.

Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.   

There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.

Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.

This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!

Parkway Drive – Darker Still review

To say I was highly anticipating this album would be something of an understatement. Australian metalcore turned stadium band Parkway Drive’s 2015 album Ire had been my album of the decade, their 2018 album Reverence was a very strong follow-up, and when I saw them live it was and remains to this day, the (no exaggeration) best concert I have ever seen. Better than Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, Ghost, Tool or any other famously good live band I’ve ever got a chance to see. Since those two concerts I saw from that tour (one at Download Festival and one in Cardiff headlining) my estimation of the band has only been higher and higher over time.

When I heard the first single from this album, “Glitch,” I was a bit underwhelmed to be honest, but then the second single “The Greatest Fear” got me properly excited, and having listened to “Glitch” so many times since then, I actually really like it now too.

Now, realistically, I can never expect this album to be as good as Ire, literal album of the entire decade, but if they could make something even half as good as Reverence then I’d still be a very happy customer, and it would still be an album of the year contender. The first time I listened to the record in full, it didn’t totally land with me. Part of that was my fault, I rushed in right as it came out, listening to it for a song or two in the shower, then a song or two when I was getting ready for work and the kids were screaming, and then listening to the rest at work in one earphone only whilst preoccupied.

My initial gut reaction was something along the lines of “Oh, they’ve gone too clean, too commercial, too stadium and the good bits of Nu Metal that they’d mixed into the last two albums have been replaced with the bad bits of Nu Metal.” However, I’d paid for it, so I was damn well going to listen to it again and again, in all sorts of different conditions, walking, driving, working, resting, on in the background and hyper focused.

…Well, I’m glad I put the effort in and didn’t go off my initial disappointed reaction, because this album is a delight. Its definitely more of a grower and a slow burn than the instant gratification of Deep Blue or Ire, and its less an obvious natural progression than Reverence was, but the more you listen to it, the more you see why this was absolutely the right album for them to make.

There’s no getting away from it, Parkway Drive are a massive band now, who play big stages to big crowds, and they just couldn’t get away with Killing With A Smile-level heaviness anymore… it just wouldn’t sound right on those big stages. While my initial assessment that this album is cleaner and more commercial than previous records, and that there are more touches of Nu Metal in the sound, it is in all the right ways. This album is an album to jump up and down to, an album to sing along to, an album to have a good time with, an album that sounds like a party, perfect fodder for big concert fun. The songs are deliberately designed to worm their way into your memory and make you want to move.

I wouldn’t say its been dumbed down, its been stream-lined for maximum fist pumping. Songs like “Soul Bleach” and “Like Napalm” just feel good. Dynamic, catchy, crunchy and bouncy. ‘Napalm also has some really tasty lead guitar lines that would feel at home on a European heavy metal festival. I love how Parkway mix that element in more and more as their albums go on.

Its not all festival bopping bouncy fun though. The album does feature some diversity, a few slower more contemplative, darker moments. There are strings, moody moments and a touch of class. The title track is quite understated and subtle (well, at least until the huge November Rain music video mountain top style guitar solo bursts out), and the closer “From The Heart Of Darkness” tries to be a hybrid of the heavy and quiet ones and succeeds really well, with the violins adding a really triumphant feel.

I could talk for hours about this album, but at the end of the day, I think the take home message of the entire review is going to be, “don’t listen to your cynical first impressions, just let it wash over you, accept it for what it is, and with repeat listens it will seriously frow on you.” I really love it now. I find myself singing “Imperial Heretic” in the shower or when doing the dishes without even realising it.

Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying And The Dead Review

2022’s The Sick, The Dying And The Dead is Thrash Metal legends Megadeth’s 16th full-length studio album. At just shy of an hour, the Mustaine / Chris Rakestraw produced record is a nice, easily digestible slice of modern Megadeth.

The album’s backstory will doubtlessly overshadow the music (you know it all by now, Dave’s triumph over cancer, Ellefson’s removal from the band, Steve Di Giorgio’s stepping in etc). The music probably won’t be talked about as much, especially in a few year’s time.

Stylistically, its sort of the same direction the band have been doing since United Abominations. There are some pretty strong tunes that fans will love “Soldier On” “Celebutante” and “Night Stalkers” are all quite memorable, but there is a little bit of filler and like the previous album, Dystopia, its a lot of the right style with great guitar and drums, but slightly forgettable actual songs, that don’t live up to say Endgame or the first six albums. 

The special digital edition of the album ends with two cover tunes, a Dead Kennedys B-side and a Sammy Hagar tune where Sammy himself actually provides guest vocals. A nice bit of fun as a bonus to round out the album and send you on your way. They end up being two of the most memorable tracks on the record. I would recommend this version.

TSTD&TD is an absolutely fine modern Megadeth album, and there are three or four songs from it that could make it into the live show for a short time, which at this stage in their career is really all you can ask for. Ranking it against their back catalogue, it feels kind of around the same tier as maybe Thirteen. Go in with tempered expectations, and you should have a good time. Just don’t expect an absolute career highlight. It’s the best album you can reasonably expect… just remember to have reasonable expectations.  

I Went To Go And See Machine Head & Amon Amarth Live In Cardiff At The Motorpoint Arena, On Friday The 9th Of September 2022.

I Went to go and see Machine Head & Amon Amarth Live in Cardiff at the Motorpoint Arena, on Friday the 9th of September 2022. This was the fourth time I have seen Machine Head live, and the second time I’ve seen Amon Amarth live (although 3rd time I’ve had tickets to Amon Amarth… and accidentally forgot to go once, what a twat!).

I’ve been really hyped for this Machine Head concert since the release of their surprisingly great new album, Of Kingdom And Crown, and have been on a bit of a Machine Head listening-bender for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been on setlistfm nearly every day for the past week and a half trying to predict what they’ll play. They’ve done some warm up shows in Scotland and brought out some great setlist surprises that you don’t hear every time, but then in interviews frontman Rob Flynn has stated he is just going to keep it simple and play the hits everyone wants.

I’ve said it before, but Machine Head, especially on their killer run from Ashes’ through to Bloodstone’ (and their first two records are all time classics too) are in my opinion one of the absolute best bands in the whole Metal genre, and they are an utterly excellent live band so any time I can for the rest of my life, I’m going to be hyped to see them live.

The first two times I saw them, they were doing their epic three hour long An Evening With shows, both of which I have some of my fondest concert memories of, and the third time was touring the publicly-maligned Catharsis album really soon before excellent drummer and guitarist Dave McClain and Phil Demmel left the band. This will be my first time seeing the band with new guitarist Vogg (Decapitated) and drummer Matt Alston (Devilment) – I was very curious to see if the band could retain their sense of identity without their longest-serving drummer or their fan favourite guitarist who totally revitalised the band back in the day.

Amon Amarth have come a long way since I first saw them opening for Trivium, Mastodon and Slayer in Wolverhampton with no stage show back in around 2008, touring their now-iconic Twilight Of The Thundergod album, getting bigger and bigger over time until now they are an arena band. Judging from their live DVD they had been putting on bigger stage shows before then too, but it has really escalated over the years and now they are famed as a big-spectacle live act that everyone must see. I was very excited to see them again and reconnect. I remember in the wake of that previous concert, I was very excited for the band, and started being a fan then and there, but due to the cost of some of their old albums at the time, I never got all of their back catalogue, and then each time they released a new album after the Thundergod-follow-up Surtur Rising, I’d always been planning to get it, but then just not got around to it due to money or timing against other band’s releases, and slowly fell out of synch with the band for no particular reason. In the build-up for this concert though, I’ve been listening to the Amon Amarth albums that I do own, and streaming the stuff I’ve missed, and I feel quite the fool. They really are a stellar band, and the stuff released after Surtur seems to be even more to my taste (“Shield Wall,” “Put Your Back Into The Oar” and “Fafner’s Gold” in particular are so catchy and memorable, I’m kicking myself for not keeping up with the band).  

But enough of the preamble, onto the show…

The opening act were The Halo Effect, a new band, but made up of ex-members of In Flames. I’ve seen In Flames live before and wasn’t particularly won over.   After a long day at work, some time with the kids and food, I made it to the concert while The Halo Effect were already on stage, so only caught about 3 full songs. The sound was ok, but there was something wrong with the lead guitar audio, it came out distorted and weird sounding in a way you could tell was a mistake. The songs seemed decent enough, the direction was slightly clean melodeath, nothing particularly fancy. There wasn’t much to talk about really. It was a fine opening, but I wasn’t exactly converted for life.

Next up, came the Norsemen. They certainly didn’t come across as amateur. It was a high production value, massive spectacle, very impressive show. There were people in costumes (soldiers, men at arms swordfighting, and even in the grand tradition of bands like Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden having a roadie in a monster costume running around… the trickster god Loki during the ‘Deceiver title track) as well as big inflatables in the tradition of Dio (Statues, Viking Longships, and even the sea serpent Ragnarok), there were props like Thor’s hammer Mjoliner which fireworks were cunningly times to coincide with it striking, a lot of pyro, cool stage set pieces, multiple backdrops, a clever lightshow that simulated storms or seas etc depending on the story of the song, and video screens in the eyes of the helmet. Very impressive… a proper arena show.

They played basically all the 10 most-played songs on youtube-music, most of the above mentioned songs, some classics like “The Pursuit Of Vikings,” and “Guardians Of Asguard,” Some newer tracks from the brand new album, one from ‘Deciever, and bits from Jomsviking and Berserker. They closed with a rousing rendition of “Twilight Of The Thundergod” which was absolutely stupendous. I was surprised they didn’t play “Death In Fire” as I was under the impression that was a real must-have, but I guess it’s a bit old fashioned, and they didn’t play my personal favourite song of theirs “Runes To My Memory” but I didn’t mind because it was a completely riotous set of wall-to-wall bangers. The only time the energy dipped a bit was for the title track of the new album, but otherwise it was pure adrenaline, catchy melodies, memorable vocal hooks and lots of “hey….hey….hey…” fist pumping/chanting. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Sometimes heavy metal is serious and dour. Sometimes, Johan Hegg has an entire crowd of people making rowing-gestures in a song about oarsmen. Variety is the spice of life.

I utterly fucking loved this show, and have a hugely renewed interest in Amon Amarth, and will make sure to get more of their records now. I have such respect and admiration for them. (Not only for the brilliant spectacle of the visuals, but the immensely fun heavy metal music).

If that had been the concert finished then and there, I’d have been very satisfied. However, I wasn’t ready for the near transcendent experience that was a renewed, reviatalised, firing on all cylinders, something to prove Machine Head delivering just the hits in a condensed, furious, no bullshit, hard as nails manner. Every cliché I’ve just written there… not actually a cliché… actually 100% true accurate description.

Visually it was a very different beast than Amon Amarth were, there were no balloons, actors, costume changes… it was a really tasteful but clever light show, with the occasional bit of tasteful pyro and one confetti storm at the end… but the main vibe was sleek, clean, futuristic and minimalist (as far as an arena level lighting and laser show can be). I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t look it from the photos, but it was actually even cooler than Amon Amarth’s very cool show. Just in a totally different way.

It wasn’t the visuals that made Machine Head the best band of the night though, it was the songs, and the way they were performed.

They opened with the heaviest song off the crushing new album, then proceeded to play basically all the songs with a music video, like “Ten Ton Hammer,” “Davidian,” “Imperium,” “Aesthetics Of Hate ,“ “Locust,” “Halo” etc. The odd song out was “From This Day” which isn’t one of their fast heavy super-metal ones, but rather a bouncy rap-metal experiment, but it was great anyway.  They played three songs from my favourite album, Unto The Locust, which I found especially enjoyable. I would have liked to see more from the new record, but I’ve just been spoiled by their previous 25-29 song Evening-With tours. For a coheadline set, it was sheer perfection. So many all-time gems in such a short space of time was really life affirming. What made it even better was the deep and profound conviction, breath-taking performance  and sheer fucking joy of the band on stage. It wasn’t even weird that Dave and Phil were gone… it was sheer quality from start to finish, utter triumph.

I have rarely screamed harder, clapped more, or basically enjoyed myself more than I did tonight. Air-drumming basically every song for the whole night, air guitaring every solo, singing every chorus and mosh call. The atmosphere was unbelievably electric. I utterly adored this concert. Every time I see the band, they become closer and closer to my favourite band, and this was perhaps the best I’ve ever seen them, and that is a ridiculously high bar!

If you have any chance at all, go see this. You will not regret it.

Machine Head – Of Kingdom And Crown Review

For me, Machine Head are one of the most important and definitive bands in Metal as a whole, and while their popularity and respect have waxed and waned over the years, and while band members have come and gone, they always release top quality live material, and have at least some utterly killer songs on even the most critically and fan lambasted studio records.

The last few years have been another dip for the band, who were beloved in the early-mid nineties, gained some more recognition but lost a lot of respect in the late nineties, had an almost-breakup-causing critical and commercial flop at the start of the noughties, later to rise phoenix-like to become many people’s favourite band for over half a decade, around the time guitarist Phil Demmel (Vio-Lence) started working with the band. Eventually iconic bassist Adam Deuce exited the band. Then they released the critically and comments-section savaged Catharsis album from 2018 and their popularity took an absolutely massive hito the point where the band became a joke in the eyes of many, and unique drummer Dave McClain (Sacred Reich) who’d been on every single Machine Head release except for the debut sadly left the band, with Phil Demmel who’d become one of the most fan-beloved members also exiting in tow… leaving the band seemingly a smoking ruin.

The intervening years have seen sporadic one-off singles, short EPs and pre-pandemic a reunion of the line-up of their debut album playing that classic record live in full, (plus a new drummer and guitarist playing the other songs for the rest of the concerts… two different band line ups at the same show… all very…untidy), and session players on some of the recordings, making them lose that unified band unit feel. In short, its been a mixed bag.

Now the thing is, realistically, Catharsis is nowhere near as bad as people made it out to be, sure it’s a bit overlong, sure there are some questionable stylistic shifts for a few songs (and a few parts of other songs). Agreed; the lyrical direction was ill-advised and turned a lot of people off… but for the most part, the main basis of the album at the end of the day was exactly the same stuff that people loved about albums like ‘Ashes and The Blackening, it wasn’t that big a deal frankly. People were also complaining about the use of slur in a song (but this was a song actively decrying prejudice and preaching unity, and making a deliberate point against the use of slurs by the way) yet seemed happy to ignore the fact that “Slanderous” on everyone’s-favourite (or at least second-favourite if you prefer the debut) album The Blackening did the exact same thing and no one ever talks about it.

There were also a load of negative Americans with different political views than lyricist Robb Flynn getting upset about Robb writing about politics, despite the band making their name on the album Burn My Eyes which is absolutely dripping with politics and current events… and no one gave them grief about that album’s political lyrics.

In short, everyone took leave of their senses, blew everything completely out of proportion, and the band took a devastating hit that would have killed most bands, over some absolute mountains-out-of-molehills nonsense that in a sane and rationale world would just be seen as just a minor blip in an otherwise superb run of albums.

The internet trolls, the clickbait writing websites and the crowd-following print journalists who seemed afraid to defy the mob and stick to rational and measured criticism (eg. “It’s a bit flabby, and there are some problems, I dislike the lyrics, but mostly, its pretty much the same as the last four albums really,” rather than “OMG this is the worst crime against my ears since nails met chalkboards y’allz. Stop talking about politics and literally commit suicide, Robb Flynn!”) had spoken. I even saw hatchet job negative reviews of the live shows, even though I know from personal experience they were brilliant live on that tour.

So, here we are four long and gruelling years later, and Machine Head have released their next full-length studio album, and have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the public, right the ship, and navigate themselves back into their position of one of the most beloved bands in the genre (well, in the UK and Europe at least, I know the US has always been a bit less doe-eyed about them than us Brits have been).

Of Kingdom And Crown (I’m not typing out all the caps or “Ø”s) is the band’s tenth proper album, first concept album, and first with Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (Decapitated) on guitar.

Lyrically, it is a large course-correct for the band, who got savaged for talking about politics and using hip hop style delivery last time, instead now focusing on a Red Sky nightmare world and the intertwining story of two tragic characters Ares and Eros with a much more Locust/Blackening vocal delivery on most of the songs.

Musically, its also a course-correct, in so much as all the bits from the last album that people criticised are gone, (which as I keep saying, was only a small part of the album anyway, blown way, way out of proportion), which leaves it pretty much sounding exactly what you would expect from any Machine Head album released after The Blackening.

There are big crunchy grooves, fun pinch harmonics, intermittent speedy Thrash sections, furious guitar solos, a mix of growls, screams and shouts in the vocal department, some ballady parts but in songs that transform later into either groovers or thrashers later on.

There is a fair bit of clean singing, but nothing more than was on ‘Ashes or Locust anyway, not excessively so. Even the cleanest, most commercial song “My Hands Are Empty” which came out near the start of the pandemic as a standalone single, does have some big dirty stinkface riffs in it to balance out that “woah-oh-wah-oh-a-oh-a-oh-oh” chant (which as a random side note, Five Finger Death Punch have totally stolen on their new album – listen to their song “Judgement Day” – pretty suspiciously close vocal melody, right?).

Some of the standalone singles released prior to this record but after the band imploded were good (“Do Or Die”), but some of them were weak, (Circle The Drain”) and lacked a certain magic. I was worried that without Phil and Dave, that maybe Machine Head would be forever lessened and wouldn’t ever fully recover, even if they got close.

Some of the tracks from this album (actually, about six) were released in advance, which reassured me somewhat, as tracks like “Rotten” appeared to be mixing the best parts of Catharsis, (deleting the controversial parts) with a kind of Burn Me Eyes / The More Things Change vibe, and tracks like “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” seemed to be going for that pedal to the metal speed and aggression that made The Blackening so enjoyable.

Sometimes hearing too many songs in advance can harm an album (I still don’t like Megadeth’s Thirteen as much as I should for this reason, it only feels like a half a new album to me) but in the case of this album, I think it was nice to get used to parts of the album in advance to cleanse the palate and clear the air. When hearing the record as a whole, with each song in context and in the correct order… it takes shape as a proper full album.

Without hearing those tracks repeatedly and letting them sink in over weeks (or in some cases months, or in one case years) I would have just been sat here nervously wondering: Will it end up as a soulless carbon copy of old glories to please an ungrateful fanbase? Will it end up a misjudged technical death metal album due to Vogg’s inclusion? Will it be a repeat of all the mistakes of the over-discussed Catharsis now that Rob lacks Dave and Phil to talk him out of bad decisions?

In reality, none of those things were true. Its just a good Machine Head album. Its not just better than Catharsis, its upper half of their whole discography. It would be unrealistic to expect it to be the best album of their whole career or anything… but its not going to be one of those forgotten pity-comeback albums either, thr ones that people say they like for a year or two, then talk trash about once the next album is better.

There are some intro/interlude tracks to help with the story, that I have seen some people criticise, but you can just skip them, like we all do on River Runs Red or World Coming Down, without it ruining the whole record.

If you are an unpleasable internet troll who only likes Burn My Eyes or The Blackening and nothing else, then this album won’t win you back into the fold. If however, you are the sort of person who finds Through The Ashes Of Empires or The Locust among their favourite albums, then this record should be very satisfying for you. The album is consistent, flows well, has some diversity so it doesn’t get boring but sticks to what the band are good at, it gives the fans what they want without being pandering about it. It is in short, an exercise in Robb Flynn doing what he is good at, with a capable backing band that stop it feeling too differently than the glory years. The concept, while not all that inspired, very handily keeps Rob away from his worst lyrical tendencies too. Always a bonus.

I really do hope as a community, we can now just sweep all the negativity of the past four years under the carpet as the minor blip it should have always been, and get back to loving Machine Head unashamedly without having to listen to a load of negativity about it. I look forward to reviewing their next album, when hopefully the review can just start with what the album sounds like and how good it is or not again. I’e already got tickets to see the band live and I really hope they play a lot of material off this record live, it will fit in really well with the 2003-2014 material.

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I Went to see Rammstein at Cardiff Principality Stadium on Thursday 30th June 2022

This was my first concert, gig or night out at all since the pandemic. I actually got the tickthts for this as a birthday gift in 2019! 

Other bands who I had tickets for pre-pandemic, like WASP castagencelled their gigs, some postponed theirs until it wasn't possible for me to go anymore, with work or around the birth of my second son. One, I was just straight up was too anxious to go, having been stuck inside too long and I eneded up chickening-out and just giving the tickets away for free to a random fan on the internet. 

I still didn't really feel ready for this gig yet either, and thought about cancelling many times... but the idea of it being a birthday gift, and of having the tickets for basically three years now, kind of made me feel obliged to go. 

In the run up to the event, I had seen news peices about how Cardiff wasn't a good city for stadium gigs, with travel chaos and inadequate infastructure, people missing gigs due to being stuck in the car etc, which didn't help my trepidation any. 

Despite me only living a 25 minute drive from Cardiff (35 until parked and out of the car), I only arrived at the stadium exactly 40 seconds before the band played their first song, having had a ridiculous commute with lots of shenanigans, including taking of 40 minutes to drive down a road no longer than 200m that I drive through in mere seconds any other time I visit the city, then getting to my usual car park to find it full (but the "full" sign is not visible until you already enter the building, thus being totally pointless, and condeming you to a 5 minute loop de loop to get back to the very start of the road, and thus sufffer another 40 minutes again to get down the same 200m you just drove). 

After accidentally going down a one way street, missing my correct turn due to a psychotic taxi driver tailgaiting me too aggressively for me to safely turn, I then proceeded to get stuck in a residential street whilst trying to lose the taxi guy as any more beeping of his horn and I would probably get out of the car, murder him and end up in prison. After deciding prison didn't seem like the best option,  I trued to do a 3 point turn in about 18 turns, then finally make my way to an alternative car park after some more shenanigans involving a train track, and finally hoof it across the city to the stadium.  
The Welsh flag, as the intro music played

After a quick trip to the bathroom, I walked out onto the stadium floor, and 40 seconds later, the band started playing.

The band taking the stage, hard to see because the ground had adverse camber

The setlist was mostly drawn from their first 3 albums and their newest 2 albums, with approximately 3-4 songs from each, and then just 1 song each from LIFAD and Reise Reise, plus nothing from Rosenrot at all. Mostly hits and fan favourites, maybe 1-2 unexpected songs, but with a crowd this size that’s exactly the right call.

Pyro

This was the first gig I had ever attended at the stadium, and I am not too impressed with it as a music venue. It is clearly a sports venue, and the flooring they put into it to protect the grass was weird, at the wrong angel, slippery, and made it hard to see the band as it felt like you were downhill, and hard to keep your footing (I saw so many people fall over compared to normal gigs in clubs and theaters, or even arenas). It definitely wasn’t the ideal place for a rowdy metal crowd who need firm footing.

That being said, the venue wasn’t all bad – the staff were very friendly and trained, the bathrooms were good, and best of all the sound was very good, probably the best thing about the stadium experience.

Rammstein’s pounding, simplsitic, mostly mid-tempo industrial style suits a big arena sound, its not too busy for the sound system. Big gigs often have poor sound, but I was very happy with this, I could hear every thing – every drum, every bass line, every guitar chord, every word.

Light show

As you have no doubt heard if you pay any attention to metal music, Rammstein put on a good stage show.

There were all sorts of things to make the show visually interesting. Lights, lazers, confetti, foam, explosions, sparks, flames, fireworks, a flamethrower-guitar, band members using different parts of the stage or an alternative stage at times, lots of props, an elevator, a treadmill, musicians going out into the crowd. Basically, it wasn’t low-effort.

Sparks shower
Keyboardist Flake ascending into the sky on an elevator for a DJ set.

Of course other bands do big shows too, in the last few years I’ve seen Alice Cooper and Ghost do props and confetti, Slayer‘s final tour did pretty good pyro, and Parkway Drive do the flames and sparks and elevator plus going out to a second stage and going in the crowd, Slipknot do the cool stage set and treadmill. I didn’t see it with my own eyes because I didn’t want to spend the money at the time with Vince Neil’s voice being bad and with me not having time off work, but I know Motley Crue do the flame-thrower (bass) guitar thing, you can see it on their The End DVD.

Rammstein was kind of like seeing all of that in one show. It didn’t quite seem like it was living up to the hype for the first few songs, they started off without much spectacle, but they built more and more over the course of the show, and by the time it went dark outside, and they played “Sonne” I was starting to think maybe this was at least bigger than anything I’ve seen.

The band on an alternate stage in the middle of the crowd doing a piano ballad reimagining of early hit Engel.

The crowd were pretty decent where I was standing, no crowd-killing, everyone respecting eachother’s space, drunks and pot smokers just merry – not falling down or vommiting or fighting. Quite respectful of wheelchairs and mobility scooters too, which wasn’t always the case in previous gigs I’ve been to. The crowd didn’t seem full or sold-out, but there is a pandemic and the show was rescheduled twice, so they did well to have it quite full.

Because I was deliberately trying to hang back at a quite spot with lots of breathing room and space for pandemic reasons, and not getting up and sweaty, I didn’t really buy into the atmosphere of the gig, and it was mostly just an “ok” gig for me, rather than something amazing or life-changing, but the music was good, the sound was good, the stage show (if not something I’ve never seen before) was still good, and the band’s performance was pretty decent. They definitely put a lot of thought, planning and effort into it, and they did well to fill the size of the venue.

Was this the best show I have ever been to? No. Was it nice to be back at a concert after two years? Yeah, kind of, but I just worry I’ve contracted Covid after being so careful and avoidant for such a long time (time will tell). Would I go back to this stadium for any other band? Probably not, unless it was something really special that I couldn’t see anywhere else, like AC/DC maybe. Would I see Rammsteing again? Definitely, but only if it was in a better venue, in a city with better infastructure. If this same show was in the same place at the same time next year, I’d give it a miss (and I wouldn’t say that for Slipknot at the Motorpoint Arena for example).

The way home was luckily much less eventful and chaotic – just a nice orderly queue for a very long time, then a clear shot home. Once I got out of the city centre, I was arguably home faster than during my normal work day commute.

Had this have been in the Motorpoint Arena instead, or had it been in a pre-pandemic world, I probably would give it an absolutely gushing rave review, but all the stress and the feelings or risk and the subpar venue took a little bit of the rose tint away for me personally.

Don’t get me wrong though, great band and I’m glad I went, I’ll probably just not be in the mood for this sort of thing the same sort of way I used to be for another year or two. I’m currently debating whether to go to any gigs at all this year (there are some tempting ones, like Machine Head, Parkway Drive and Volbeat coming to Cardiff at various points this year) but I’m still a bit uncomfortable being outdoors or in crowds at present.

Recent Purchases

(Some of the Radiohead ones are just me filing all the B-Sides of a certain era into one fictional album, as is the Fates Warning Live album, that’s really just bonus tracks from the special edition of Parallels that I changed to look like a real album. Also, I’ve had In The Land Of Grey And Pink for over a decade, not sure why it is in this list, for some reason it keeps appearing in the list as if it is new… just a weird anomoly of iTunes I guess.)

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Smashing Pumpkins Albums (And some notable EPs/Compilations) Ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today I’ll be discussing Chicago’s own genre-defying, ever-evolving, hard to define band, The Smashing Pumpkins, and their somewhat intimidating discography. (Feel free to add your own ranknigs in the comments).

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1. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993) – Its quite hard to pick a number one album when the band have two of the most definitive albums of the 1990s, both of which are always featured on every list and retrospective of the most important / most iconic / most famous / best albums in every book, magazine, website, blog etc. that you can think of. (Almost like Pink Floyd having both The Wall and Dark Side Of The Moon in their catalogue). Which one you will prefer will ultimately come down to personal choice: Do you want a tighter more direct ride to your destination? Or do you want the more scenic diverse route that covers more ground, and gets you there in a slower but more colourful way?
I like every album the Pumpkins have made so far, but it is fair to say the most famous two are the most famous for a good reason, and the two best starting points for a new fan. I was almost tempted for half a minute not to pick either the perfect-flowing Siamese Dream or the epic double-album Melon Collie’ for first place, but ultimately decided that was just being deliberately awkward, and inaccurate. After deep consideration, I do honestly believe Siamese Dream is my favourite Pumpkins album and deserving of the top spot, even if it is an obvious choice.  

Great drums, heavy moments, soft moments, grungey moments, occasional proggy tinges and some very memorable hits. Enough has already been written about Billy Corgan’s masterpiece that I won’t write too much steamy praise here, but if you haven’t heard it yet, I’ll just echo the hundreds of voices online that say it absolutely lives up to its reputation, deserves all the plaudits, and gets better on each listen.

And to think, I took a strange dislike to this band as a teenager due to the song “Today” and its music video, and didn’t give the band a fair listen until my brother got me this album as an unrequested gift, only about 4 or 5 years ago. All that time wasted, not realising how good this band are. Oh well, guess I’ll have to make up for it now.

Best hits: “Cherub Rock” & “Disarm”

Best deep cuts: “Silverfuck,” “Geek USA” & “Hummer.”

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2. Smashing Pumpkins – Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1996) – As hinted above already, this huge sprawling eccentric record is another masterpiece, and has an equal chance of being thought of as their finest hour. It is almost difficult to take in during one listen, there’s more creativity and ideas popping off here than in some of their peer’s whole discographies.

It takes all the ideas of their previous two albums, amplifies them, expands upon them and then introduces dozens more new ideas on top of that to create a two-hour voyage through numerous facets of rock, pop and metal music with a loose dreamy passage of time theme, some trippy artwork, and some very evocative lyrics. There are songs for every mood you could be in, for every type of rock fan – perhaps that’s why it was such a monster seller?

Speaking of its sales, I almost find it hard to believe that such a borderline reckless album with seemingly no creative restraint ended up being so financially successful (gold, platinum, multi-platinum and diamond selling, in different territories). Sometimes it doesn’t even seem to know if it wants to be Smells Like Teen Spirit, Pink Moon, Colony Of Slippermen or Enter Sandman. Then again, a few listens, and you get to see how good the songs are, and as mentioned above… there’s something for everything, so I guess it makes a lot of sense.   
 

Best hits: “Tonight, Tonight,” “Zero” & “1979.”

Best deep cuts: “An Ode To No One,” “X.Y.U” & “Where Boys Fear To Tread.”

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3. Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (1991) – This is one of the band’s tightest, most efficient, consistent and succinct records to date. Whereas the next two albums made a great success out of being broad, expansive, and diverse, this album’s strength is in its relative straight-forwardness and cohesion.

That’s not to say the album is boring or repetitive, there is a mixture of hard rockers, ballads and sleepy psychedelic moments – its just focused, flows well and has a clear direction. I know the band started off in the ‘80s with a bunch of goth and New Wave influences, but by the time they got into the 90s, their debut album sounds more like early Monster Magnet and peak Kyuss to me than it does like New Order or The Cure. Maybe that’s just my ear. Rock fans who have only heard the big singles like “1979” and “Today,” or “Tonight, Tonight” might be quite surprised with the fuzzed out attacking moments on this record. If you like your “Demon Cleaner” with a side of “Dinosaur Vacuum” – check this one out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

In terms of a well-crafted album, this is pretty damn great. The others are just trying to be “more than an album” and, arguably succeeding. Still, in such a long and very varied career, with members coming and going, with exploration into all sorts of different musical territories, through various breakups and comebacks… whichever album managed to come in at third place behind the two obvious always going to be number one or two shouts must be pretty must-hear, right? Well it is. I feel like every music publication in the rock world will tell you to listen to Siamese’ and Melon Collie, but if you have even the most passing interest in the band, you need to get some Gish in your life too, at an absolute minimum.

Best songs: “Bury Me,” “Siva” & “I Am One.”

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4. Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist (2007) – This album usually features pretty low on critic’s Pumpkins album ranking lists, but I don’t care. This blog isn’t about the common consensus, this is just my own personal taste, and personally, I love this record.

The Smashing Pumpkins have one of the most frustrating and hard to please fanbases in the rock world, and the critics seems twice as unpleasable as that. This album was already written-off by the press before it was even released because bassist and guitarist D’arcy and James were gone, and then upon review, the specifics were added in. It was poo-pooed for being too metal and too simple, despite critic’s favourite Pumpkins albums being full of highly metallic songs like “Zero” and “Bodies” and “Quiet” as well as despite critics previously poo-pooing parts of Machina for being too experimental and proggy, on top of the fact that D’arcy and James contributed the least musically to all the albums the critics do like… its just a weird bandwagon for everyone to jump on.

When the Pumpkins came back with a cool striking artwork and theme (that carried through to all the merch and singles and videos and stage image etc), and a vague promise in interviews to return to the immediacy of Gish, and kept the two most important members of the band, in hindsight it just seems a little weird and off that this album is thought of by so many people as a stinker.

Imagine being Billy Corgan in 2007, or even nowadays looking back at rankings and seeing this at or near the bottom. What must he be thinking? “You’re mad at the Pumpkins because they’re being more simple, like you wanted them to, and writing more metallic songs again, like you wanted them to, and because the band members who make the least difference to the overall Pumpkins sound are gone – but the really noticeable drummer and the voice and writer of 90% of the music is still there…the guy who physically played all the bass on Siamese Dream anyway? – And on top of that, this record and marketing campaign are both really cool and that’s all being ignored in favour of those really nit-picky complaints?”  Yeah, ok, I wouldn’t know how to process that either.

When I personally listen to the excellent music, which has some great Hard Rock / borderline metallic bangers ala the best moments on the first three albums, as well as some great melodic modern moments that rival or even exceed the best moments on Machina (“That’s The Way My Love Is,” “Bring The Light” etc), and even a near-ten-minute Tool-sounding drum fuelled epic (“United Stated”)… I definitely get what I want from the Pumpkins.

I guess some people wanted Dream Pop, or Shoegaze or New Wave or Avant-Garde, and fair enough, those aspects are in shorter supply here, so if that is what you were expecting, those elements aren’t as well represented this time, and if that was the actual criticism, I could respect that. But don’t try and tell me with a straight face that “Death From Above” is a bad song, or that you can really hear the lack of D’Arcy on this album.

Some people don’t like the production, especially on the vocals, and fair enough, that’s personal taste. I can get if you don’t want all the overdubbed vocals and effects. For me, personally, the production here still sounds a lot better than Adore or either volume of Machina did, so its not a deal-breaker level bad production to my ears.         

Best songs: “Doomsday Clock,” “Tarantula” & “United States.”

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5. Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny And Oh So Bright’ (2018) – This eight track album (initially called Volume 1, although there seems no sign of a volume 2 at time of writing) is the Pumpkins’ shortest album to date, at just over half an hour.

While other Smashing Pumpkins albums tend to have a hook or angle of some sort (eg. broad, diverse, eccentric, arty, commercial, electronic, heavy, quiet, proggy, back to basics, etc) this one just seems to focus entirely on “good song writing” which for my money, is a very admirable goal.

There are only eight songs here, but all of them are a winner, nothing is skippable, all are immensely memorable.     

The Rick Rubin-produced affair sees the return of guitarist James Iha (absent since 2000) and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (absent since 2009), which makes for good headlines, although early bassist D’arcy Wretzky is still absent, which rankled some critics, so I guess you could only consider it a partial reunion… kind of like Guns N’ Roses getting Slash and Duff back in the band, but not Adler.

Oh well, if the results are this good, I can live without the optics of a full reunion.

PS. I don’t mean to come across like I dislike D’Arcy or anything, not at all, I just really don’t understand when some people online or in the media come out with a real hard-line “No Pumpkins album without D’Arcy is any good” attitude. I just don’t see it. They’ve released some spectacular work without her.   

Best songs: “Seek And You Shall Destroy,” “Marchin’ On” & “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts).”

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6. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina II: The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music (2000) – Smashing Pumpkins are years ahead of their time. They gave an album away for free on the internet more than half a decade before Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails made it cool. They had some alternate-reality marketing before a similar idea made Reznor look like a genius. Hell, they even had the idea of an animated band before the Gorillaz.
If you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, have a good old read online about the stillborn double album Glass And The Machines Of God. Ok, it wasn’t all completely original…  the idea of a rock opera about a rock-star thing had already been well explored by bands like WASP and Savatage a decade prior, and of course by Pink Floyd over a decade before that. But the they handled/were going to handle it, seemed like quite a cool update / twist on the basic premise.   

When the record that was initially to be a double eventually morphed into two separate records, Machina 2, (the one that didn’t unfortunately get a proper commercial release and which you have to listen to online or via dodgy bootlegs), was actually the better of the two, with the best songs, the best ideas, and the most clear narrative.

Until this eventually gets rereleased in some glorious deluxe edition, you’ll just have to search-engine your way to a trustworthy copy, and the sound won’t be perfect, but for the tunes its worth it.

Although it has such an interesting backstory, it is not a mere gimmick, and if it was just an album you could always get in the shops just like anything else, it would still be one of their best. I can’t even think of the Pumpkins without thinking “Shattering fast…”  

Best songs: “Glass’ Theme,” “Cash Car Star” & “Dross.”

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7. Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments To An Elegy (2014) – This album has the somewhat weird distinction of having Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on drums. As odd a pairing as that is on paper, Lee actually fits the music tastefully and you wouldn’t even know he was there unless you were told.

Similarly to Shiny And Oh So Bright, it is barely over half an hour in length. With the exception of the quite rocking opener, the musical direction is quite upbeat, poppy, synthy. It’s a very pleasant listening experience.

If you want blistering guitar solos, throat rending screams, and gen-x angst, you’ve very much picked up the wrong disc, but if you want to hear the band in a more contemplative, mature, less aggro space, this is a nice diversion. Simple, elegant, understated. I guess you could see it as Billy exploring what songs you can write at the polar opposite point to the complex, ostentatious, over the top end of the spectrum that brought us Melon Collie. I wouldn’t like them to live here full time, I love it when they go big, but as a one off album, I really love that this exists.

Best songs: “Tiberius,” “Drum + Fife” & “Anaise!”

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8. Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot (1994) – Ok, this isn’t a real album, its actually a B-sides compilation, but its as good as most band’s real albums. In fact, there’s many a Pumpkins fan who would place this as their second or third best record, almost up there with the top tier classics.

Its well sequenced, and flows like a real album, moreso than a compilation, and if someone told you it wasn’t just their second album between Gish and Siamese Dream, you could easily fall for that line.  

For that reason, I’ve decided to include it on the list here. If you’re using this list as a buyer’s guide, seriously treat this compilation like a true album, its unskippable.

Best songs: “Frail & Bedazzled,” “Pissant” & “Starla.”

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9. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania (2012) – 2012’s Oceania is the first full-length Pumpkins album with Jeff Schroeder officially on it, even though he’s actually been in the band since the comeback shows of 2007.

After the press and even a lot of the fans unceremoniously took a dump on the fantastic Zeitgeist album, in which the band had tried to be simplistic and go back to basics, but also took a dump on the live shows of the time in which the band tried to be creative and progressive and boundary pushing, (see the excellent documentary / live DVD “If All Goes Wrong” for context), then also ignored their ahead-of-their-time, creative new “we don’t do albums anymore, we’ll just release stuff online” approach of the next few years… the Pumpkins were at a bit of a cross roads. People aren’t happy when the band go back to their roots, people aren’t happy when the band making progress… the only thing people can really seem to ever agree on is liking  Siamese Dream. Everyone likes Siamese Dream. So, Billy and company decided with Oceania to deliberately try and remind people of Siamese Dream. Not so much obvious retreading, but “capturing a vibe.” Well, I say not obvious retreading, but you’d have to try very hard to find a review of this album that doesn’t mention “Cherub Rock,” or “Disarm” or maybe even “Spaceboy” and “Luna” …everyone is tripping over themselves to hear hints of Siamese Dream on this album, and tell .

Its not all Siamese-nostaliga though. You can actually hear as much were they would be going on future albums like Monuments’ and Cyr in some of the poppier and synthier moments as much as you can riffs or drum rolls that remind you of the glory days.

In terms of ranking it, it is a pretty strong album, but a bit of filler holds it back from the absolute top tiers. If it had either been a tad more adventurous, or else a tad more succinct, it would have been even better. As it stands, its just pretty good, but not an utter classic.

Best songs: “The Celestials,” “Inkless” & “Quasar.”

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10. Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden By Kaleidyscope EPs & Singles (2010) – As mentioned above, after the music journalists savaged basically everything Billy and his merry band did since they returned, the decision was made to abandon the traditional album format, and instead just release digital EPs and singles.

This was quite forward thinking, but like Lars was right about Napster at the time, and people are starting to realise it in hindsight, but it seemed crazy at the time and people just didn’t rally around it like they should have. It seems like the whole “lets eschew albums in favour of just digital singles or short but frequent EPs” mostly idea is more relevant today than ever. You can’t switch on a music podcast these days without some artist or industry insider pondering about whether the album format is old fashioned in the era of streaming and downloads.

Technically, Oceania and Monuments’ are part of this overarching project too, but they work as well (if not better) as distinct albums, so for this entry, I’m just talking about the rest of the material. If you take the EPs The Solstice Bare & Songs For A Sailor plus the rest of the Teargarden single tracks, they basically all add up together to form a third album’s worth of material, and so for ease of organisation, I tend to just think of them as one album, and have actually just formatted them as one album in my music library. A sort of missing album between Zeitgeist and Oceania if you will.

You know how they say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth? Yeah, well, considering these are totally free tracks, it’s a very enjoyable set. Alright, if you want to get your critical analysis skills out, sure, it isn’t as accomplished as the upper half of the list, but for a free record, it’s a heck of a lot better than you’d expect.

Best songs: “Song For A Son,” “Freak USA” & “Cottonwood Symphony.”

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11. Smashing Pumpkins – Cyr (2020) – The newest album on this list at time of writing, Cyr is a double disc synth-pop album. It was talked up as being their attempt to create something modern, but to me it sounds like ‘80s worship. I wonder is this in fact closer to the vision inside Billy’s head when they started the band, than a genuine attempt to be modern?

At first, I wasn’t quite as into this record as most of the others. My main concerns were basically, “What’s the point of having a drummer as good as Chamberlain back in the band if you are going to have programmed beats and restrained songs?” and “what’s the point of having a double album if its all sort of one pace and all sort of one duration, with no peaks and valleys?” but from repeat listens, it has really grown on me. At the end of the day, a good song is a good song. Yeah, it isn’t as heavy and aggressive as I like, or as proggy and weird as I like, or as acoustic and beautiful as I like, or as diverse and surprising as I like, or as virtuosic and instrumentally impressive as I’d like… but do I spend a lot of the week humming choruses or melody lines from it… so Billy must have been on to something.

Best songs: “Ramona,” “Anno Satana” “Tyger, Tyger” & “Wyttch.”

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12. Smashing Pumpkins – The Aeroplane Flies High Boxset (1996) – Originally this was a box set collecting all the singles from Melon Collie, but nowadays you can just get it on iTunes or Amazon etc, and if you ignore the hit Mellon Collie songs, its kind of works like a (less-good) follow up to Pisces Iscariot. In contrast to that very wonderful compilation though, this doesn’t flow like an album, isn’t consistent all the way through, and isn’t a must-have. If you love the Pumpkins and just want a bit more, it is worth seeking out, and there are some great tunes on it, but it is definitely uneven and for-fans-only.

Best songs: “God,” “Pennies” & “Marquis In Spades.”

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13. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina / The Machines Of God (2000) – I really like the album, but I’m going to have to try and justify putting it so far down the list, lower than things that aren’t even real albums, between albums you can’t even buy on CD and between albums without most of the original line up. Far below albums many critics outright panned. It would be easy to just say “personal preference” chalk the whole thing up as a good job, and knock off early for ice cream, but I suppose I better try and come up with a rationale anyway.

The production on this one has a bit of a harsh sheen on most of it, and sort of hurts my ears. It’s a bit too bright, brittle and loud.

The record is also a bit overlong and although there is some diversity and some totally new ideas, it suffers a bit from filler in the middle and so unfortunately feels like it doesn’t justify its length.  

The heavy, energetic, intensely memorable opener is one of the best songs in the band’s history, and there are some nice trippy experimental moments here and there, but most of the album is a bit too syrupy.

Also, for a concept album / rock opera, the narrative doesn’t really come across as clearly as you would expect.

If either they had combined this and Machina 2 into one giant epic, or else they had trimmed this down to its best moments, and toned down the production a bit, then perhaps it would be a bit higher up the list, but as it stands, it is a good Pumpkins album, but not a great one.

Best songs: “The Everlasting Gaze,” “Try, Try, Try” & “Wound.”

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14. Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (1998) – It feels harsh having this album last, and indeed it will be utter blasphemy to some fans, but something has to be in last place, and although I like it, it is unarguably my least favourite. The songs, for the most part, aren’t just quite as good as the Pumpkin’s best. There’s definitely good stuff here, but there’s better stuff elsewhere.

I don’t mind them not playing hard or metallic, I don’t mind them not having Chamberlain’s drums, and I don’t mind them using synths or being gothy elsewhere, so don’t think I’m some kind of luddite just rejecting this album because it was a big sonic shift for the band.

Its just a bit plain, unadventurous and dreary when compared to the Pumpkins’ bigger more beloved albums, and also not as memorable, concise and well-written as their lesser well-known material. Even compared to their other ‘80s and electronic tinged album, its not as fun.

I’m sort of making it sound as though I don’t like it, but that is not the case, I do still like it… I’m just trying to explain how it can be last on the list, so the hardcore fans put down their pitchforks and flaming torches. It has some memorable moments, a unique aesthetic in the band’s catalogue, was historically important. I’m not denying that. It is an interesting portrait of a dark, bereaved time for the Pumpkins and confused time for the music business. But its just not as much my cup of tea as all the others.

Oh wait, did I essentially just say “personal preference” and knock off early? Woops. Anyone for ice-cream?

Best songs: “Ava Adore,” “Blank Page” & “For Martha.”

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Also, the EPs American Gothic and Lull deserve honorary mentions. You can do with “Slunk” and “The Rose March” in your life if you like good Pumpkins.

Recent Purchases / Gifts:

Here’s a round-up of recent musical aquistions I’ve come by.


(Some of it might actually just be one song / bonus track I added, but it is too hard to filter that out of the screenshots).

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