Supermachine – Review


(Small Stone)
by Scott Hefflon

The good news is the talent level is high in Supermachine, the recording sounds great, the songs range from adequate genre-filler to pretty solid by brushing well-liked elements of both guitar rock and grunge metal, but rarely taking them anywhere mind-bogglingly new. The bad news is, if you were a fan of Scissorfight, where guitarist Jay Fortin and bassist Paul Jarvis sharpened their skills, most of these songs are a waste of their gonzo talent and locked groove (“Josey Whales” being an exception). And while getting used to Iron Lung’s speak/singing/croaking (like Rob Zombie announcement voice interspersed with whiskey and meth-loaded B-52’s Fred Schneider exclamations) was no easy feat (and when he tried to sing on later releases, uh, I reached for the near-perfect Mantrapping…), his was a vocal style like no other, not to mention he was a freakin’ bear, and a well-read wordsmith to boot. (Yeah, he’s smarter than the average bear, Boo-Boo. Did we really have to go there?) This David Nebbia fellow has a good voice: He can hit all the notes, he has a range, he can wallow in the shallow end of Alice in Chains depths, he can belt it out like some of the better bluesy singers from the gutter glam era (I’m repeatedly reminded of L.A. Guns frontman Phil Lewis, and I’ve done 20 years of shots not to), but dark-underbelly glam rock and toe-testing the swirling abyss are a far cry from “wow, what a great singer!” dig?

OK, the slag that the riffs here aren’t worthy of the Fortin/Jarvis team is a bit harsh, because the sound is here (Mantrapping… being well-known to be a production gemstone), and there are moments of wide-legged gonzo that’d make the Nuge smile, but these moments don’t lead anywhere, they’re more of a fretboard warm-up exercise for these guys. But again, this team-up, like when Clutch really hit their stride, can write swaggering riffs to match Thin Lizzy, Guns N’ Roses, or Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”-style riff rock. And, unlike most bands, the bassist isn’t a one-note thundercloud, he’s a fat-stringed wingman, matching the guitarist shot for shot, and settling for the not-so-hot chick, cuz let’s face it, he’s the bassist.

While closer “Warlord” again kicks up some dust, it simply lacks the umph of “More… of… those… pills…” in “Acid for Blood,” there’re no blizzards, or buzzards, or bastards, much less all three together, and there’s surely no rebel anthem like “New Hampshire’s Alright If You Like Fighting.” This is Supermachine’s debut, so I guess we gotta give ’em room to grow as a band and as songwriters in this more mainstreamed style of rock, it’s that just the rhythm section has already led the shit-kickin’ charge, and now they’re lagging behind a well-worn curve, ya know?