Born out of the necessity to create an album without the aid of his band mates, Jason Pearson – a.k.a. Dr. Magic – strikes the anvil hot and hard on this latest Syd.31 album; drawing on a myriad of influences from various eras and genres, Machine Ready is a mixed bag of styles held together by a singularly aggressive electro/punk atmosphere.
For instance, songs like “Imminent Failure” and “As They Let You Down” start off slow and pensive with melodic bass, chilled guitar passages and drones, and even a frigidly inviting piano on the latter track, before both burst into explosive rockers full of frenzied drum & bass beats and rubbery synths, the reflective and somber lyrical themes of human cruelty and failed relationships making for some poignant listening. Others are more incendiary like the title track with its mechanical loops and decidedly industrial ambience amid howls of “Do you have a soul,” or “Broken Blank” with its bombastic riffing and a dissonant guitar solo that becomes quite harmonious in the noisy coda, and the arena-sized anthem of “Collapsing New Stars” evoking early ‘90s KMFDM with the occasional use of a sampled fanfare to complement the steely bass and glassy synth tones joined by a rather boisterous and catchy riff. Perhaps the best song on the album in this writer’s estimation is “Imitating Art,” as wintry pads glide atop a smooth hip-hop beat, the deeply resonant bass working well with the grinding melody of the synth and guitars, Pearson finally singing in a more emotive and sublime style as opposed to his usual screaming; it’s truly a standout track. Similarly, “We Turned the Lights Out” possesses almost a WaxTrax! feel with its use of dubplate effects and hip-hop beats, eschewing the walls of guitars to allow the politically charged lyrics to resound more fully.
While decidedly punk, the abrasive vocals across the majority of the record may perhaps be too scathing for some and does at times hinder the lyrical potency, but the variety of musical styles interspersed through its 41-plus minutes compensate for this. As more of a solo outing for Pearson rather than the more collaborative nature of past records, Machine Ready may not deviate too heavily from Syd.31’s established sound, but it does well to expand on them quite successfully.