Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Powerman 5000: Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere

I’ve seen Powerman 5000 three times in concert, but never on purpose.

The first time was back in 1997 in Greenville, S.C, when the band was opening for Danzig. I had no idea who they were but thought they had an interesting sound, interesting enough for me to later keep an eye peeled for their album. (It didn’t hurt when one of their guitarists gave me a PM5K bumper sticker during the Electric Hellfire Club’s set — a bumper sticker drawn by Rob Zombie, no less.)
I later saw the band again while shooting photos of Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium tour stop in Rockingham, N.C. (that’s one of my photos above) and again a few years later at a festival in Columbia, S.C.

So PM5K and I have a history. I kinda love the band.

The band went off the rails back in 2001 when frontman Spider shitcanned the album Anyone for Doomsday just a few weeks before its scheduled release. It was a major setback for the band and took them off the cultural radar for a time. They never really bounced back from it, but I have to admire the balls it took to trash an entire album just because it wasn’t up to snuff. (Note: I’ve heard Anyone for Doomsday and it actually has some great moments. It’s since been removed from the market because of legal issues, but bootleg downloads of it aren’t difficult to find.)

I’ve kept up with the band — which is now just Spider and a revolving cast of hired gunmen — over the years, but was surprised last week to see a new PM5K album was released in late 2009. I stumbled on Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere at Emusic, downloaded the single Supervillain, and quickly committed to buying the entire album.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, which is probably a polite way of saying it’s not everything it ought to be. There are some stand-out tracks present — the title track, Supervillain and Do Your Thing come immediately to mind — and I love the album’s infatuation with outsider characters. It makes a pretty interesting statement about individuality that even the album’s goofier moments can’t really undermine.

Spider spent much of the last decade trying to distance himself from the Sci-Fi/B-movie ferocity that defined the early part of his career, so I’m glad to see him embracing the ComicCon aesthetic again. If Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere is missing anything, it’s a production-level concept that ties the album together. But Spider can still write one hell of a chorus (which isn’t as easy as it might sound.) I’ve been fighting a losing battle with insomnia during the last few weeks and Supervillain did absolutely nothing to help. I was bouncing off the walls for hours after first hearing it.

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