In August 2001, Powerman 5000 stood with a match, ready to set the world on fire with Anyone for Doomsday?, the follow-up to its platinum Tonight the Stars Revolt. But at the last possible moment, PM5K mouthpiece Spider One pulled the plug on the album and its accompanying tour. The move riled drummer Al 3 and bassist Dorian 27, and both parted ways with Spider and guitarists Adam 12 and M. 33. Suddenly, instead of revving up for a new release, Powerman 5000 was half the band it used to be, and stuck with an album it didn't believe in. Spider and his minions soldiered on. A new rhythm section was recruited, featuring drummer Adrian Ost and bassist Siggy Siursen, and the retooled Powerman 5000 reentered the studio with producer Joe Barresi. The result is Transform, which updates the grinding, computerized industrial metal of the band's earlier work with more melody and percussion that actually sounds human-driven. While it ultimately derails itself with anti-consumerism tirades and broad suggestions to follow the title's advice, Transform nevertheless tries hard to entertain. The strobe-lit neo-metal of "Theme to a Fake Revolution" and "Top of the World" evokes a late-night ghost ride down the 405 Freeway, headlights out and the pedal to the floor, while first single, "Free," is the kind of melodic L.A. hard rock that Billy Idol was so good at back in the day. But while his staccato, monotone chant is still ensconced in the neutral zone between rap and actual singing, Spider One's mind has moved beyond the science-fiction tributes of the past. "A Is for Apathy," "That's Entertainment," and "The Shape of Things to Come" further the record's agenda, but dilute its hard-hitting heavy rock power. Transform's liner notes contain its manifesto: "Your very image and essence has been stolen, turned into high fructose corn syrup." It's a rather grim outlook for a group signed to one of the largest record labels in the world. While Spider's intentions may be genuine, it's not necessarily the place of PM5K to preach. Transform's overdriven guitars, solid percussion, and industrial backbone will make it as enjoyable for fans as any other Powerman 5000 release. However, it's hard to forget that the suddenly serious band used to perform in spacesuits.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus