MACHINEKIT – Album Review: “I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND”

Album artwork by Jaydee Buege at Wire Mark Design

MACHINEKIT is a techno-punk band based in Los Angeles. Originally founded as Dharma in 2012 by John Rojas, Dave Cayetano and William Buege, as their sound evolved they made the decision in 2016 to change their name to MACHINEKIT, and the following year released their self-produced debut album Dysappearencer. They followed with two EPs and several singles, and in 2021, drummer Ryan Janke and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Garcia were added to their line up. All veterans of previous bands, the five musicians quickly bonded to become an even stronger musical force, combining their years of collective expertise and array of influences to create what they quite appropriately describe as “an agglomeration of chaos”. Now they’ve released their second album I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND, and it’s dark, aggressive and brutal, yet also strangely beautiful and sexy.

In early February, Rojas reached out to me about reviewing the album, and though it’s not the type of music I’m normally drawn to, I liked the songs and agreed to review it, even though I wasn’t quite sure how to write about this music. Soon after, I was hit with another bout of burnout, this time so serious that I decided to stop writing reviews altogether, though I would still honor the commitments I’d already made. To further complicate things, Rojas himself is a terrific writer who does reviews for the website Tourworthy, and after reading a few of his, I felt even more intimidated. But he was gracious and encouraging, and also generous in providing me with his thoughts and inspiration for writing the album, along with the lyrics, and I will do my best to give this album the credit it deserves.

Photos by Katie Viola

Before I get into discussing the songs, I’ll share some of Rojas’ eloquent words to provide context for I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. “I started writing the album back in March of 2020. We had just gone into lockdown and I had nothing to do, so I just wrote music. Track 1, “In March of Nothing”, was actually written first and its title paves the way for what would be the concept of the entire album: loneliness. The title is both literal and figurative because 1) I literally had nothing to do in March, and 2) life felt so overwhelming that it confused my beliefs

During most of 2020 and 2021, I was dealing with a lot of personal issues that gave me a sense of emptiness and boredom. Eventually, I went sober, and for some reason, that exacerbated my loneliness, so I just got into making the album and it just so happened that I had something to say. With all the weirdness happening in politics and society, I felt more isolated, but I wanted to merge that confusing feeling with my personal life. I decided to be cryptic and discuss my childhood in La Puente, my drug use, my current relationships with people, and my interactions with my community and the public. I was also tired of feeling fear and resentment over the toxic behavior that was and still continues to come from the world, so I wanted to talk shit when I felt compelled. By the end of the creative process, I realized each facet was contributing to my loneliness in ways that I still don’t fully understand, but when it came to writing the words, I tried my best to be viscerally honest with myself.

I grew up going to punk shows and raves, and wanted to merge my love for both sounds, which inherently allowed me to push my musical boundaries while I was being inspired by nostalgia. It was definitely a weird formula, but it worked. Also, I had just opened my recording studio, MachineHouse Audio, so I had the privilege to experiment in all capacities with the sound, which I believe helped me get where I wanted to go. With starting the studio and dealing with lockdown, the economy and the world were flipped on their ass in all dimensions, and having trouble in my personal life, the message came back in full circle. The only thing that really stood out to me was that weird ambivalent type of loneliness that wasn’t negative nor positive. It was just filled with anxiety and equanimity, and I just happen to document where I was at the time.” 

As previously noted, the opening track “In March of Nothing” describes Rojas’ feelings of ennui and loneliness, as well as setting the overall tone for the album. The song starts off with ominous pulsating synths, portending rough times ahead. The music is gradually joined by a strong synth-bass beat as Rojas sings in a seductive, yet menacing voice “I am Jack’s lonely heart club band. Info news feeds me shit on high demand. The common clutch for the plastic adults. Programmed into the culture of cults. Hit me where it hurts. Enough to feel the burn.” As the song progresses, the music and vocals grow harsher and more intense, finally erupting into a bone-crushing maelstrom of dystopian madness as Rojas screams “They want my fun! They can have my fun! But the party is over!”

And speaking of dystopian madness, “LoveFuck” is a two-minute, 56-second-long psychedelic trip into hell. Machinekit unleash their sonic weaponry with a furious barrage of raging guitars, tortured industrial synths, crushing bass and explosive percussion. Rojas channels his inner beast as he savagely rails of his disillusionment over romantic love: “Young adults have all the fun. Pop-stars with fake luck. Click-bait when you’re done. Is it better than a morning fuck? Oh, What I wear fits. Oh, What I fear hits. Fear of missing out throughout those years. I don’t know where the feeling lives!” His vocals are so intensely feral, he’s left panting by song’s end, while I’m covered with goosebumps!

Distressor” sees Rojas questioning our belief systems and why we follow leaders who don’t seem to know what they’re doing either: “Who’s your modern angel of death? Aren’t you fuckin’ bored to death with picking someone to reform your thoughts? Public figures conduct chess fights. Do you really know wrong from right? I want a sign in full-form.” And on “Divebomb“, he ponders the soul-crushing impacts of the covid lockdowns: “Are you bored of staying in? Is your air getting thin inside your head, your home? Your head is a dead home.” In listening to the song, as well as the entire album, I was struck by its strong Nine Inch Nails vibe, and in fact, Rojas told me he’s a huge NIN fan. He really seems to channel Trent Reznor on this track, as his vocals go from seductive breathy whispers to brutal screams.

One of my favorite tracks is “Purge“, with its frantic, hard-driving techno/dance groove and glitchy industrial synths creating an intense, otherworldly soundscape. In a similar vein, “Glue” features loads of spacey distortion, glitches and blips layered over a hypnotic dance beat, punctuated with jagged, gnarly guitar riffs. Everything erupts into a bone-crushing crescendo in the choruses as Rojas wails “Your bloody thoughts have bloody clots. I can sense your dirty thoughts. Our bloody clogs have bloody spots. I can feel them when I’m not.” On the moody and psychedelic “Anti Anti“, Rojas seems to question his faith, acknowledging the sobering thought that whatever he or any of us believe, we’re all going to end up the same at the end: “And I’ll make my own damn bed at the very end. Cause the dirt is my home. I’m all alone, and I will belong to the worms.” I really like the haunting piano and trippy synths on this song.

One of the standouts is “Whore On The Floor“, a very dark song about the inner conflict between using our guile and physical beauty to get what we want, but also willingly submitting ourselves to those who take advantage of us. Rojas elaborates: “The song and the video for “Whore on The Floor” are intentionally explicit. As the first lyrics says, “Am I a whore on the floor? When I want to,” I have a conversation with myself of how I feel like a whore in many forms. The video portrays me being submissive to a beautiful woman, so I use my sexuality or sexuality in general to illustrate that concept. That song is very literal but can be associated with many things, ie: sex, love, life, money, power, friendship, etc. This again is tied to how the act of being submissive makes me feel like shit and lonely.” The ominous glitchy industrial synths, combined with Rojas’ menacing vocals – which culminate with his screams of “And what you want from me, won’t come for free!” – creates a dangerously sexy vibe.

The instrumental track “__X__” features a repeat of the glitchy synths heard in “Whore On The Floor”, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful sounds that serve as lead-in to the gorgeous closing track “Stressor“. Nearly six minutes long, the song is a magnificent tour de force, with a glorious kaleidoscope of shimmery guitars, spooky industrial synths, grinding bass and thunderous percussion, all of which blend in perfect alchemy to create a darkly cinematic wall of sound that’s at turns both breathtaking and terrifying. Rojas defiantly calls out those who threaten our individuality and identities with their judgemental, soul-killing influencer bullshit: “And then these gatekeepers intervene. They kill our dream with their social scenes. And I stare off in disbelief. So called decent motherfuckers just act like thieves./ And press the stress into my voice. I hear my name inside the noise. Outgrow each god and their brands. I am still Jack’s lonely heart club band.

Like many albums I’ve reviewed, it took a couple of listens for me to fully appreciate I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. With each successive listen, I heard more nuances in the myriad sounds and textures of its instrumentation, as well as the complex rhythms and melodies that give the songs such incredible impact and depth. Besides, who doesn’t need some brutally intense music to work out those aggressions now and then! Rojas and company have much to be proud of here, as they’ve created an exceptional, beautifully-crafted record. If you’re a fan of bands like Nine Inch Nails or Daughters, you will enjoy this album.

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Purchase on Bandcamp  

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