Sound — 8
Powerman 5000, after taking a brief walk into the land of punk rock, has wisely returned to the space-age, electronic-driven blend of rock that led the band to stardom in the first place. Taking a cue from 1999's platinum-selling Tonight The Stars Revolt, Powerman 5000's latest record Somewhere On The Other Side Of Nowhere is once again dishing out plenty of infectious sampling/synth hooks, hip themes (vampires, villains, and technology among them), and power chords to back it all up. Some might consider it a way to get back into the good graces of fans from a decade ago, but for the most part the band does succeed at creating a cool vibe on the new album, and it doesn't hurt that most of the choruses although somewhat trite lyrically are incredibly catchy.
Powerman 5000 (which now only has one original member left: Spider One) had confused/distressed plenty of fans with 2006's Destroy What You Enjoy, an album that was leaned more heavily on the punk genre than anything. It was basically a 180-degree turn from the elaborate synth lines and sci-fi-inspired lyrics that had peppered previous recordings, and the concept wasn't embraced by most. The band has seemingly learned the error of its ways, and Somewhere On The Other Side Of Nowhere is at the very least a return to the comfort zone. While their sound might not be groundbreaking anymore, it does have a fascinating cinematic nature to it.
The band sets the mood immediately by placing an intriguing spoken-word interlude in the first few minutes of the CD. There's just something about hearing the statement, I tell you this: If there are any intelligent creatures on this planet, they're our enemies. That kind of drama draws you in as if you are about to watch some crazy alien film, and Powerman 5000 keeps the momentum going by transitioning quickly into the first full-on song, Show Me What You've Got. That track represents the first of many songs built around a format that includes quirky samples that you might find in a sci-fi film, as well as the all-important big choruses. Mood is a big driving force on Somewhere On The Other Side Of Nowhere, and frontman Spider aids the process with his vocal range and inflection.
Highlights on the CD include Do Your Thing, a track that although still relies on plenty of sampling, revolves around a fantastic guitar lick. The title track is one of the mellower offerings on the album, and arrangement-wise there are quite a few interesting things happening from a faux string section via synth work to a whole bunch of trippy sound effects to Spider's effective hushed vocal technique. The main issue is that many of the songs, without all the digital enhancements, could be taken as a bit pedestrian. Thanks to creative arrangements and charismatic vocals, however, Somewhere On The Other Side of Nowhere is leaps and bounds a better album than Destroy What You Enjoy.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrical content doesn't quite match the level of creativity happening with the music portion, but in a way it does work with the big choruses. An appropriate example comes in Super Villain when Spider sings, Smash it up; Burn it down; Tearing up the underground; You want to live like a super villain. Nothing too interesting within the content, but it does make for a memory-friendly chorus if you want to sing along. Every once awhile there is more intriguing imagery (You're like a satellite; Spinning down from the sky tonight; You're blazing a trail with your horns and your tail in Make Us Insane), but for the most part the lyrical content doesn't match up to the experimental nature of the musical composition.
Overall Impression — 7
For anyone who heard Destroy What You Enjoy, the new record should come as a huge relief. The band has returned to more of a sonic, larger-than-life sound that, although might not be taken seriously by music snobs, is still an enjoyable listen. The best way to describe Somewhere On The Other Side Of Nowhere is as a guilty pleasure. At times it's more fun to listen for all the funky little samples that show up intermittently, but in the end there are still enough likeable melodies (with a heavy dose of classic power chords) to create a cohesive, solid album.