Moving On

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In the late '70s, many American rock journalists hated disco as much as they loved punk and reggae. The critics who applauded punk and reggae for addressing social and political concerns were quick to attack disco for having escapist, innocuous lyrics; as they saw it, disco lacked the substance that punk and reggae had. But contrary to what its detractors claimed, disco was every bit as exciting and innovative as punk, new wave, or reggae. The lyrics were often frivolous, but musically and rhythmically, disco was most definitely rock's equal. One band that challenged the idea that disco couldn't be sociopolitical was Machine, whose 1979 single "There but for the Grace of God Go I" was exalted as a rare example of "disco with a brain" or "disco with substance." But Machine wasn't strictly a disco band, and the truth is that their second and last album, Moving On, has as much to do with soul, funk, and rock as it does with disco. Machine's goal was to combine an infectious beat with thought-provoking lyrics, which is exactly what it does on intelligent gems like "You Learned Your Lesson," "Power and Reason" (an attack on oil companies), and "Number Player." Combining funk and hard rock, "Number Player" isn't unlike something Mother's Finest would have done and underscores Machine's desire to avoid being labeled a full-time disco band. Unfortunately, this excellent 1980 release lacked a hit single and didn't sell. In an ideal world, Machine would have stayed together a long time and become as famous as Earth, Wind & Fire or Parliament/Funkadelic; instead, the band called it quits in 1981.