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Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Powerman 5000
Dreamworks Records

When your big brother is ROB ZOMBIE and your friends are the members of MARILYN MANSON, chances are that your big label debut album is going to have one hell of a boost, deserved or not.

Spider One is the kid brother to Rob and both he and big bro are huge fans of horror, with Spider leaning toward SF/Horror which is apparent by the dress of these guys. Just as many Heavy Metal bands dress in the goth chic of somber black or satanic evening wear, so does POWERMAN 5000 dress in retro futuristic red and black space suits. The effect is something more akin to a cross between Kraftwerk or DEVO than ROB ZOMBIE or MARILYN MANSON.

Still, the dress on stage is all show and you can have the most inane accouterments you care to wear: BUT(!) If your music can't backup your idiot ensemble then you look like a bunch of friggin' jackasses on stage!

So just how does POWERMAN 5000 sound? Sort of like a cross between ROB ZOMBIE and MARILYN MANSON. Is that a bad thing? Nope.

The album starts out with a man's voice quoting somebody called J. P. Saticoy. A person this reviewer is totally ignorant of. The effect is reminiscent of General Boy's narration on some DEVO albums, videos, and shows. Spider One's voice is a cross between Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson and his verses are as eclectic and be-bop as Ric Ocasek. Like DEVO and Kraftwerk, the songs all involve mysterious and vague threats via technology. In this case we are not talking about our own technology or even alien technology, but celestial technology. That's right, the planets and stars themselves are out to kick our asses like we were just so much virus.

What POWERMAN 5000 has is a high energy cross between Techno and Heavy Metal that is undeniably ROCKIN'!

In songs like "Supernova Goes Pop" and "When World's Collide" the distorted fretwork of Adam and M on guitar is backed up by lead metal crunching bass provided by Dorian. You would think that such a band, inspired by such mentors, would (in this day and age) cop out with some bullshit drum machine but no. These songs are wild, layered and masterful. They could not survive or have any value were they stuttering through some insipid loop box. Al drums through all the songs providing a staggering amount of complexity, more than the songs even require, but elevating them all by his presence.

Like THE MISFITS sing songs based on their favorite monster movies, so PM5K address the many flavors of SF, only not just movies, but the literature as well. This could be dry stuff in anyone else's hands, but Spider One has an uncontrollable LOVE for this genre as he sings in "The Son Of X-51"
"Let's go / I know / the son of X-51"

If you haven't heard the song then you have no idea that such lyrics could be sung with such excitement and fury that Spider gives the words.

On "Blast Off To Nowhere", the song starts off with a narrative that reminded me of Jeff Lynn's WAR OF THE WORLD'S album. Additional vocals are provided by big bro, Rob Zombie.

The very sedate and goofball crooner that penultimately ends this disk "Watch The Sky For Me" is supplied with vocals from MARILYN MANSON's own Ginger Fish. I like it for no other reason than it is a wink to the audience that PM5K doesn't take its ego too seriously.

My only problem with this album is that, with all the help and background, PM5K doesn't develop a voice of their own. The Narrative also begins to bug me by the end of the disk. These are minor sticking points since this is, after all, their premier album.

The claim can be correctly made that the production values were heavily massaged by Co-Producer Rob Zombie as well as a team of producers like Sylvia Massy, Ulrich Wild, Scott Humphrey, and Fred Gryner (with a table spoon of Joe Baressi). On the other hand, I've seen many albums that had an excellent pedigree in the production and engineering department that still fell flat on their ass because the music was just no damn good.

POWERMAN 5000 is damn good, so do yourself a favor. This one gets 4 perplex skulls.

Perplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex Skull

This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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