Them faux-vintage “CCCP” T-shirts sported by Powerman 5000’s spiky bleached frontman Spider One—still dining out on the two-and-a-half-note joke that was big brother Rob Zombie’s cartoon crunchcore—hearkens back to headier days. Like those 17 seconds, 17 years ago, when the coexistence of Billy Idol’s sneer with the high hilarity of Sigue Sigue Sputnik felt more epochal than Generation X’s entire back catalog.
Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” KO’d all lesser rap-metal angst mutations, which the Powerman five weren’t terribly good at to begin with. So they’re now gasping for, and grasping at, a marketable suburban Situationism—such as gobsmacking the Vines’ “Get Free” with the gratuitous assertion that “living so free is a tragedy.” And take these song titles, please: “Theme to a Fake Revolution,” “A Is for Apathy,” “Song About Nuthin’ “—perhaps the biggest thing a-matter is the DreamWorks label (who’ve kept P5K on the roster since the mid ’90s) appearing where a Soviet-era Melodiya ought to be.
While the bleak sloganeering gets toned down for Transform‘s back end, the album’s plodding prog crust only accentuates the odd infectiousness of P5K’s glib, videogame-friendly fist-pumpers. Just imagine a Glasnost-era rock band transplanted to 2003, forever out of step, forever in (bootleg) blue jeans.