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Machine (2001): A Worthy Follow-up…Mostly

Static-X, Machine (Warner Bros., 2001)

[originally posted 16Nov2001]

Some sort of abstract construction decorates the album cover. I have never been able to figure out what it is.

Heart in a bag.
photo credit: Wikipedia

Two years ago, Static-X’s debut album Wisconsin Death Trip gave solid evidence that Static-X were by far the most literate and intelligent metal band on the planet. Dada-esque lyrics and short, stuttery guitar lines meshed to create one of the best, and most accessible, rock albums of the previous decade. Now, we get their sophomore effort, and the question is—does it measure up?

Answer: yeah, kind of. Almost.

The music is still what it was. Scrappy, loud, staccato, and with much less of the sludge factor that has defined most every metal band since Metallica. Changing guitar players between albums hasn’t hurt them a bit. In fact, some of the more single-worthy tracks from this album, especially “Cold,” musically surpass even Wisconsin Death Trip‘s finest moments.

The problem, if you can all it a problem, rests in the lyrics. What made Wisconsin Death Trip such a fun album to listen to was that the majority of the songs therein weren’t really about anything (Wayne Static has said in more than one interview that he was going for an abstract feel, and that the sounds of the words were more important then the meaning. Glad someone still feels that way). And while there are certainly a few songs like that here, where the meaning (assuming there is one) is sublimated in waves of gorgeous-sounding syllables, the ratio of songs that are actually about something here to the former type is a lot higher. I realize that this will probably make Machine a more accessible album to most people, but it just doesn’t sit right with the absurdists in the crowd.

This isn’t to say that some of those meaning-type songs aren’t good. “Permanence,” in particular, stands out for its ability to convey meaning and still sounds as good as, say, “Bled for Days” or “December.” And really, if you’re not listening for the lyrics and/or following along on a lyric sheet, how understandable are they? I’m still trying to puzzle out some of the stuff on the first album.

All told, it’s still a fantastic album, and my problem with it is a minor one at best. But I still have to knock it down a bit from the heights of Wisconsin Death Trip. ***

The official video for “Cold”.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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