One of these days, Mike Cummings is going to be in the right place at the right time.
Powerman 5000 earned the requisite face-time on MTV in the late '90s after its first two CDs were released and a small hard-core group of fans got into PM5K's punk-driven, hybrid sound. But thus far, the new millennium has run cold for Cummings (known by his stage name Spider); records were scrapped, deals went sour, and band members ran for the hills. So what's a guy gotta do to get back on top, even though he certainly brought some of these troubles on himself? Well, we're not sure if this new CD is his ticket, considering that it rocks way harder than the majority of the pop-metal bands that dominate commercial radio.
The new material on Destroy What You Enjoy gives Spider plenty of opportunity for his diatribes against the music industry, governments and obese Americans. Played at full throttle, "Return to the City of the Dead" is the kind of stop-and-make-you-think song Bad Religion might have penned during its peak in the early '90s; "Enemies" borrows from the Sex Pistols playbook; and "All My Friends Are Ghosts" is vintage Powerman 5000. In "Ghosts," Spider restricts his vocal range to just a few notes down the center and lets the guitars carry the melody underneath.
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PM5K shows are all about the swagger, another art seemingly lost these days, excepting that hard-ass Canadian band, Billy Talent. At a gig at Clear Lake's Scout Bar in July, Spider spit out the words to every song and spent the entire show, as he usually does, in midair, drenched in sweat, backed by a band that has something else you don't see much anymore: an actual rhythm section in drummer Adrian Ost and bassist Siggy Siursen. The thing is, it's what Spider's been doing for years. But there were a lot of fans eagerly waiting all night for him to play the 1999 hit "When Worlds Collide" during the encore. Come to think of it, maybe we don't want more people to catch on, so we can savor PM5K for what it is right now: a somewhat obscure guilty pleasure that we get to rediscover every once in a while.