Without overtly patronizing fans or pandering to radio programmers, the 15-song disc covers a plethora of emotions -- anger ("The Everlasting Gaze," "Heavy Metal Machine"), sadness ("Blue Skies Bring Tears"), and redemption ("Rain Drops & Sun Showers"). Some of the material is radio-friendly -- nothing as obvious as "Today" or "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" -- but the appeal isn't based on sly hooks as much as content. The songs suggest a return to the band's guitar-rock style. The throbbing first single, "The Everlasting Gaze," gives the scorned Corgan a sounding board, with Chamberlin showing off his percussive chops. But the most obvious return to alt-rock is "I of the Morning," on which Corgan laments/questions: "Radio plays my favorite song . . . what is it you want?" Its layered guitars blossom right before the momentum reaches a fever pitch. This is pure Pumpkins magic.
Diehards will salivate at the inclusion of "Glass and the Ghost Children." Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, this morose, discordant track changes the album's pace. Corgan indulged his eccentric side -- normally relegated for B-side releases (see 1996's The Aeroplane Flies High) -- to produce this two-part track, which is sandwiched with excerpts from what sounds like a mini-recorder tape of Corgan pondering his life. Its peculiarity fits perfectly into the song's style. Machina/The Machines of God may not match the mainstream success of Pumpkins past, but it's the album that was needed to restore their credibility with fans, as well as their integrity within what's left of the alt-rock genre. -- John Benson