Powerman 5000
Builders Of The Future
(Universal)

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard anything from the industrial rock outfit known as Powerman 5000. Many of you may have not even realized that the band released several albums after their landmark Tonight The Stars Revolt! album (which I still own a copy of) which consist of Anyone For Doomsday? (which was originally scrapped and re-released later), Transform, Destroy What You Enjoy, Somewhere On The Other Side Of Nowhere and Copies, Clones & Replicants (a cover album). I’ve heard all of these with the exception of the covers disc and will just say that the group seemed to be heading into an unrecognizable direction after the heaviness that pervaded their major hit. Despite what album came afterwards, it began to seem like Spider One and crew had entered some sort of wormhole and apparently got stuck in there, sealed off from the rest of the universe as they struggled to fly back out of it. Eventually, the band just decided to keep their ship firmly docked in the recesses of space for a good number of years, releasing nothing and keeping a moderately quiet presence until the release of this album. I anticipated it as soon as I heard peeps that it was moderately in the vein of Tonight The Stars Revolt! and will attest that it does musically sound a bit like it. But make no mistake, as Builders of the Future is not the return to heaviness that you’d expect from the creators of such classics like “Supernova Goes Pop”, “The Son Of X-51” or my personal favorite, “Operate, Annihilate.” But perhaps this is due to the fact Spider wanted to salvage his vocal chords for the future, or perhaps the band just wanted to appeal to a more mainstream audience with a lighter touch on the same style explored on that album.

So pretty much what I’m saying, is that Builders Of The Future is a watered down version of Tonight The Stars Revolt! with all the heat and thunder reduced to electro-party rock. Sure, it might start up convincing enough with the “we’re really, really trying to be heavy again” opener “Invade, Destroy, Repeat” (and perhaps the reiteration of “c’mon,c’mon,c’mon,c’mon!” ruined it for me) but the album switches gears as it goes into “We Want It All” which is actually a phrase repeated on the group’s single, “How To Be A Human.” I will admit that said single is mildly catchy and I found myself humming the chorus a few times without realizing it, but it just doesn’t differ much from the kind of material offered on Transform. The title track adds more industrial and techno elements, almost providing a disco-vibe, but it doesn’t really sound like PM5K to me. Then we get, “I Want To Kill You” which is a dark acoustic vibe of all things. Surprisingly, it’s one of the strongest songs on this album, but it also seems out of context for the band. Nevertheless, it’s certainly a sign of maturity that sets itself apart from more of the party rocking tracks on the disc. The next two songs that follow (Modern World, Live It Up Before You’re Dead) sound almost identical, with “I Can’t Fucking Hear You” being one of the disc’s last standouts in its alt-rock earwormery right before the whole thing concludes with another weak electro-party rock track in “Evil World.” That being said, I’ll really have to give it to zer0 and sci55ors, because these two do manage to create some memorable guitar atmospheres, especially during “I Can’t Fucking Hear You” where one of these dudes can be heard shredding his ass off – but that is what I like to hear. Despite that this album isn’t quite as good as the band’s heyday records; it does have some moments of showmanship that make it stand out among some of their less-spirited releases. There’s no real “rap rock” on the album either, as they’re not trying to reinvent Mega!! Kung Fu Radio in an attempt to jump on the Nu-Metal revival wagon. But it’s still quite sterile compared to the record that it took influence from and I don’t quite think the band will hit its mark with the album. It is a step in the right direction, but a very rushed direction that seems to consist of mostly bland tracks with no real feeling other than just a few choice moments here and there. Also, it’s quite short and clocks in at just a few minutes under a half an hour, which is technically the length of an EP.

There are two bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of the album that may or may not be as good as some of the standouts I’ve mentioned, but being that I have yet to hear them, I really cannot say. If you’re a die-hard PM5K fan like I me, then I would recommend that you stream it first before you purchase. Early reviews miscommunicated the wrong information to me and I came to the disc under false pretenses. Expecting an atmosphere like that on Tonight The Stars Revolt! and Anyone For Doomsday? I was quickly letdown by this release. But it’s not a total wash and should still get the servos scrambling. I just hope that maybe next time, these guys will really kick it up a few hundred parsecs. (Eric May)

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