modern music

Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music is the sixth studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins. It was released for free on the Internet on September 5, 2000. A sequel to Machina/The Machines of God, it has thus far not had a commercial release. The album itself, a double LP, was packaged with three EPs full of B-sides and alternate versions. Both Machina albums are loose concept albums telling the story of "a rock star gone mad." Machina II was the last Smashing Pumpkins studio album, until the band reformed in 2007 with new members and released a new album, Zeitgeist.

History

Near the conclusion of the Machina sessions, it was Billy Corgan's wish to release a double album of material, but Virgin Records was unwilling to do that following the disappointing sales of Adore. After the release, and poor sales, of the single-disc Machina/The Machines of God, Corgan then wanted to release a second Machina album separately, but Virgin declined to do this as well. The band nonetheless returned to the Chicago Recording Company in July 2000 to finish what would become Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, which was subsequently released on Corgan's own label Constantinople Records. Only twenty-five copies were made, and were given mostly to friends of the band. A few of the 25 copies were purposely shipped via FedEx to prominent fans in the online community, with instructions to immediately redistribute it on the Internet free of charge.

Promotion

The Pumpkins performed a track from the album ("Cash Car Star") on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which also ended up being the band's final television appearance until their 2007 revival. The performance was a rarity as "Cash Car Star" was not a single in any way, and Machina II was unavailable for purchase. (Leno even held up an actual vinyl hard copy of the album in true talk show performance tradition, with the comment "You can download it on the Internet") A previous live performance of the song had been broadcast as a portion of Kiss' 1998 Psycho Circus Halloween special, where the Pumpkins served as the opening act.

The album

Machina II picks up the loose story of Glass and the Machines of God started in Machina/The Machines of God. Songs like "Glass' Theme", "Cash Car Star", "Home", and the b-side "Speed Kills" are indisputably related to Corgan's story (see corresponding flowchart to the left). The first three songs, considerably more intense than much of the Pumpkins' other releases, are a hearkening to the earlier, famous Pumpkins sound, blending dream pop with arena rock, while "Let Me Give the World to You" has a melodic, radio-friendly sound. "Real Love", which would later appear on the band's Greatest Hits, has a sound reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. "Home" has been called "simply gorgeous" and compared to U2. The album's closing track, "Here's to the Atom Bomb", has been compared favorably to the Pumpkins' biggest hit, "1979".

Response

Because it was not released conventionally, few professional reviews of the album were published, but those that surfaced were largely positive. The Onion AV Club called it an "artistic high" for the band. Pitchfork Media opined that the band sounded "energized and at a creative peak." The All Music Guide called the album a "winner.

The fan response was similarly enthusiastic. Though not as well known among Pumpkins fans as the band's commercial releases, Machina II perhaps enjoys greater popularity among die-hard fans than the first Machina. Its underground popularity can most likely be attributed to its hard, raw sound and rough energy. This sound was largely caused by the manner of the album's release: the tracks were sourced from hand-cut vinyl records and then uploaded to the Internet. The end result was a collection of heavy rock songs with a very raw, "lo-fi" sound characterized by pops, scratches, and other distortions. For fans left unsatisfied by the muted atmospherics of Adore and the comparably processed and produced Machina/The Machines of God, Machina II was hailed as a welcome return to the band's hard rock roots.

Value

Because of the high interest in the album and its extreme rarity at 25 copies, a vinyl Machina II can be considered a holy grail for Pumpkins fans. On August 5, 2005 the Q101 copy (#19/25) was put up for sale on eBay. The seller decided to end the auction four days early when the bidding had reached $10,000 from a bidder in France. This bidder has since disclosed that there was a mutual agreement after the auction was ended to cancel the sale transaction. It remains to be seen if this copy (or any other) will go up for sale again publicly in the near future, but the episode suggests that an original vinyl copy could fetch a five-figure sum.

Track listing

The two-LP set is the album itself. Corgan has said that the three EPs are "technically the B-sides. CR-01, CR-02, etc. all refer to their relased on Constantinople Records (Constantinople Records-Released 1, etc). The only other Constantinople release, CR-05, was Live at Cabaret Metro 10-5-88, a gift given to fans exiting their farewell concert at the Cabaret Metro. The song "Let Me Give the World to You", originally written and recorded for Adore, would have been considered for a single, had the album seen an official release. The original, as-yet-unsurfaced version, was produced by Rick Rubin.

Release sources

A number of a release sources exist for Machina II. All of them are sourced from vinyl (except for the noted commercial releases of select tracks).Virgin promos: This source is from in-house promo CDs made for internal use at Virgin Records (sourced from the vinyls), made before Machina II was released to the public over the Internet. Two versions of the promos exist, a UK (type I) and U.S. (type II) version, both with 4 CDs corresponding to the vinyl copies. As it was done in-house at a record company it generally assumed to be a high-quality transfer, though some of the faint voices which can be heard in the background before some of the EP songs are cut off, and in general it is missing a considerable amount of audio between song transitions.Q101 transfer: As mentioned above, the radio station Q101 received one of the 25 vinyl copies. It was subsequently transferred to 2 CDs by the station (one CD containing the EP tracks and one containing the LP tracks). The transfer was done by a high profile radio station (presumably with high-end equipment and professional oversight) and spectral analysis shows the transfer to be of good quality. Copies were given away as prizes from the station.SPIFC transfer: The SPIFC transfer was produced from a vinyl copy by a member of the SPIFC. A transfer was eventually performed onto two CDs with "high-end" equipment. The SPIFC offers MP3 downloads of the transfer to members and held a contest giving away CD-R copies. The SPIFC transfer shows a 21 kHz tone which casts some doubt on the quality of the transfer.MP3 web releases: Following the vinyl release a number of MP3 versions quickly surfaced on the web. A select number of people involved in the Smashing Pumpkins online fan community received one of the 25 releases. Using audio equipment they had immediate access to these were recorded onto computer, encoded to MP3 and quickly released for the masses. Later MP3 releases may be from one of the CD sources listed above or newer lesser known transfers. The official site also had the full 25 tracks for download in both mp3 format (at 320kbit/s) and in real audio format. In 2007, the album was once again posted for download on the newly-reopened SmashingPumpkins.com.Commercial releases: Four tracks from Machina II have been released commercially. These are of specific note, because these versions were sourced from the master tapes rather than amateur vinyl transfers. "Real Love" was featured on the Rotten Apples compilation. "Lucky 13" and "Slow Dawn" appeared on Judas O, which was included with early copies of Rotten Apples. The Machina II version of "Try, Try, Try" was one of the B-sides to the "Untitled" single, titled "Try (Alternate Version)." The studio banter that precedes "Try, Try, Try" on Machina II has been removed from this version.

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References

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