Review : Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
SlantmagazineBilly Corgan has always boasted a songwriting style full of big, flowery conceits: Before the band self-destructed, Zwan's Mary Star of the Sea delivered a spiritually tinged, decidedly non-angsty brand of sunny alterna-pop, while Corgan's 2005 solo effort, The Future Embrace, effectively pursued a quiet and intimate but ultimately dystopian strain of bedroom electronica. It's a wonder, then, why Corgan has consistently struggled to recapture his muse with the Smashing Pumpkins, either on the original group's final album, Machina: The Machines of God, or subsequent releases by the band's various incarnations (the deplorable Zeitgeist and the overly conceptual meta-album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope).
The pseudo-Pumpkins' latest release, Oceania, isn't billed as the reboot Zeitgeist failed as, but rather, according to Corgan, "an album within an album"—a sort of digression from the persistent sprawl of Teargarden. In reality, however, Oceania is less of a micro-concept built into a larger framework than a "time out" where Corgan can escape Teagarden's tentacles and pursue some new musical ideas that aren't tied down by a grand abstraction. And though those ideas are still plagued by a post-Mellon Collie idleness, the halcyon Oceania benefits from Corgan's new sense of freedom, resulting in the Pumpkins' best album since the gothic Adore.
Corgan has often been quick to condemn the older, rock n' roll-heavy incarnations of his band, but his hand in remastering classic albums Gish and Siamese Dream late last year must have altered his perspective, as Oceania embraces the milky-smooth distortion the band perfected on those first two releases. From album opener "Quasar" and on, there's little of the electro-pop flourishes Corgan had become obsessed with, and what few electronic accompaniments there are exist to serve a larger, rock-oriented purpose. "Pinwheels," for example, starts like a synth-addled, Machina-era missive, but is soon overlaid with a wall of thick guitar harmonies, one of the Pumpkins' oldest signature sounds....full text
ConsequenceofsoundWhere do you start with Billy Corgan? For the past half-decade, the man’s been as polarizing as LeBron James, having to dodge critics and fans with every move and decision. Granted, he’s not posting numbers like #6, and he’s attracted plenty of the attention himself (e.g. “Do I belong in the conversation about the best artists in the world? My answer is yes, I do,” he told Rolling Stone back in 2010), but the obscene scrutiny is almost parody at this point. Face it, the days of putzing around with D’arcy Wretzky, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin are long behind him (hell, the Billy and Jimmy show is a thing of the past, too), yet he’s not exactly a one-man army these days, either. Things felt that way on 2007′s Zeitgeist, the ensuing EPs/singles, and especially the early stuff off of that 44-track whatever-we-should-call-it-now, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. But with Oceania, what’s being billed as the Pumpkins’ ninth release (really, how do you catalog their maze-like discography?), Corgan sounds like he’s in good company.
Now, because it’s been a sort of revolving door these past few years, here’s the up-to-date roster for the Smashing Pumpkins 2.0 2.7: Corgan (vocals, lead guitar), Jeff Schroeder (guitar), Nicole Fiorentino (bass), and Mike Byrne (drums). With Oceania, there’s an organic vibe to the tracks, as if there’s a band alongside Corgan again–and that’s because there was. “We worked at it together,” Corgan explained to us recently. “Over the two years that we’ve been an intact lineup, they’ve shown an ability and a willingness and a temerity to lead, to take possession of the Pumpkins’ world, to stand up for things, to fight for things internally that are important and help rebuild my confidence and support me when other people are constantly telling me I’m an idiot and ‘go back to playing the old songs’ kind of thing.” That’s a complete 180 from the moody, self-obsessed frontman of yesteryear; if you recall the 2008 reunion tour documentary, If All Goes Wrong, Corgan couldn’t stop searching for the right quote to essentially say, “Well, there’s a reason you don’t see Iha or Wretzky–it’s because I don’t need them. I don’t need anyone. I only need myself.” While it’s still bothersome that Chamberlin isn’t behind the kit, it’s refreshing that Corgan seems to be comfortable once again....full text
SeattlepiThe Smashing Pumpkins have a new album out (Oceania, their seventh studio release). I love the Pumpkins, and I love Billy Corgan. They were a very big part of my life when I was younger. Then, it got weird. They broke up in 2000 and since reforming in 2006, have had quite a few lineup changes.
Pearl Jam never broke up and are still together with most of their original lineup, always make great music, and still tour and kill every time, with no drama. This is what I wanted the Pumpkins to be, but I am sure that is what Billy thought, too.
So, smash cut to the present. After Billy declared the album "dead" a few years back, he came back and made this new one as part of the band's ambitious, ongoing 44-song Teargarden By Kaleidyscope album project-an album within an album....full text
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