Machines of Loving Grace – Concentration

   1993 Mammoth/Atlantic Recordings

I was working at a classic-rock-turned-alternative radio station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when this CD was released in 1993 (long live 100.7 The Tiger!).   The Seattle grunge sound had taken hold and the alternative radio format was starting to include other genres like electronica in the wake of Nine Inch Nails’ success. 

Being mostly a guitar guy (but a lover of great songs no matter what instruments are used), I was turned off by most of the electronica and electronica/rock hybrids of the time, and indeed most of them found only limited (if any) success.   What made this disc stand out as one of my favorites of the time is that it incorporates what I feel are all the best elements of dance/electronica and hard rock.

While not nearly as heavy as White Zombie, the danceability of the tracks brings to mind the vague comparison.  But while White Zombie was a metal band first and then added the dance element to their sound, Machines of Loving Grace was the opposite, bringing a hard guitar edge to their dance-oriented songwriting while keeping melodic pop sensibility.

The pulsing rave groove of opener “Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll)” allows for perfectly placed distorted guitar accents and riffs which complement the decidedly dance music-oriented vocals of Scott Benzel quite nicely.  However, three songs in a row on the second half of the disc make it indispensible:  “Cheap,” “Acceleration” and “Ancestor Cult.”  The disc is strong throughout, but this triplet comprises their most shining moments in my opinion.

They’ve never matched the strength of this album before or since, but all that matters is that this disc is an album any band should be proud of.

Rating:  4 out of 5