Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
The Smashing Pumpkins heyday in the 1990′s found them universal acclaim, multi-platinum album sales and a legion of dedicated followers. Rock music in general has suffered considerably in the past decade and the decline of The Smashing Pumpkins has coincided with this decline with a long chronicled tale of infighting which led to their eventual split in 2000. Now reformed with frontman Billy Corgan as the only original member in the line-up and with 2008′s ugly and disappointing return Zeitgeist behind them as well as the partly finished 44-track experiment hit-and-miss fest Teargarden by Kaleidyscope put on-hold for the release of this “album-within-an-album”, Oceania.
Oceania is everything that Zeitgeist isn’t. Zeitgeist’s overproduced and grinding guitars are largely absent from Oceania despite opening similarly heavy; the end product is a far more melodic and gentle album. Depending on your tolerance levels for Corgan’s unique vocal delivery and his often pandering lyrics, this album will satisfy Pumpkin fans who adored the Adore-era output of the band and those who saw any sort of promise in the ambitious Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project. The production here is top notch and the songs are wonderfully varied with traditional Pumpkins mainstays of heavy riffs and gentle tracks to the psychedelic and use of electronic (used to fantastic effect in the great Pinwheels). Corgan’s voice is in great shape and always has had a hauntingly beautiful quality to it (when he is not waling at least). Album stand-outs like Violet Rays, Pinwheels, Pale Horse and Wildflower are gorgeously textured tracks and are sweeping in scale and ambition. Violet Rays is an early hint that this group of musicians have finally clicked as a unit and are flowing seamlessly and with artistic vigour. Corgan’s grandiose compositions are no surprise given his talent, but rarely (lately especially) has it all come together so well. The best song on the album is the lively and infectious Glissandra and comes at a stage in the album (track 11 of 13) where a kick in adrenaline is needed and it is pitch perfect and invokes memories of some of their biggest hits.
This album is a supreme return to form by Corgan and company. After the bad taste Zeitgeist left, Oceania is a vibrant, expressive joy of an album. The album is a wonderful reminder that while the original line-up of The Smashing Pumpkins may be gone never to reform, Corgan and his choice of replacements have recaptured a sound that has not been heard at anywhere near it’s best since 1998′s Adore. Unexpected as it may be, this may very well be one of the albums of the year.
Posted by Kelly O'Brien on at 6:20 pm.
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