It occasionally occurs to me just how long ago some of my favorite albums were released, and how it doesn't feel like it could possibly be that long. "Astrocreep 2000" was fifteen years ago, "Reign in Blood" twenty-three, "Kill 'em All" was twenty-six. Conversely, "Tonight the Stars Revolt" was released in 1999, but the platinum-certified success of that album feels much more than a decade ago. With almost continuous infighting, Powerman 5000 shelved the follow up album (what would have been 2001's "Anyone for Doomsday?" which was eventually released online in 2007,) then produced two uninspired efforts, "Transform," and "Destroy What You Enjoy." (For the record, I like "Anyone For Doomsday?" and don't know why Spider would try to fix what wasn't broken.)
Powerman 5000 has never managed to emerge from the stigma of being "Rob Zombie's little brother's band." The irony is that the band has rarely produced material worthy of coming out of that shadow, and the more Spider tries to separate himself from the reputation, the farther from success he falls. In a strange parallel, the success of Powerman 5000 has mirrored the career of Rob Zombie himself, from "Hellbilly Deluxe"/"Tonight the Stars Revolt" to "Educated Horses"/"Destroy What You Enjoy."
To that end, I was hesitant to even consider "Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere," for fear that the band, with only Spider remaining from their heyday, would have slipped further down the spiral. In the end, the album is a mixed bag. The campy, third-rate science fiction feel that fans have come to expect from PM5K is happily returned (especially in “Super Villain,” that song has a great feel,) and immediately creates a feeling that separates the album from the almost pop punk feel of previous efforts.
“Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere” still lacks the punch that catapulted PM5K to the fore a decade ago. The music is just as loud and insistent, but lacks the visceral edge that would truly signal a rejuvenation of the band. “Show Me What You’ve Got,” and “Time Bomb,” both fit into this mold. There is no “Operate, Annihilate,” “Supernova Goes Pop,” or “Car Crash” to push the envelope and create a threatening atmosphere. At this point in their career, I could see Powerman 5000 going on tour with Sick Puppies or Saliva, rather than Megadeth or Disturbed. That’s not necessarily bad; it just means the band has moved on to another phase of their career.
The sound is consistent, as the quick riffing of “Make Us Insane” is a pleasant surprise on the album’s back nine. There are a few duds; the title track is a throw-away, which I think is a questionable decision for the album’s identity. “Horror Show” and the back half of “V is for Vampire” dabble in some cringe-inducing rap-style lyrics, but beyond that, nothing is a total bust. I should add, even the more mediocre songs are remarkably catchy. Infuriatingly so. The riffs and the cadence of the beats mesh very well, and the hooks are simple but effective. “V is for Vampire” is an up and down song, but I’m still hearing it in my ears, and I could do a lot worse.
I never thought I would say this about a new Powerman 5000 album again, but I like this album. It won’t push “Tonight the Stars Revolt” for sales numbers or popularity, and it’s not as good as that tremendous effort. But compared to the two previous albums, and stacked against the band’s body of work, it holds water. “Super Villain” especially is a fun, if not ground-breaking song. “Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere” is a back-to-basics for the band, and it’s a step back toward what worked.
Now, what if the old Powerman guys got together like Rob Zombie’s old band did when they formed Scum of the Earth…