After five long years The Smashing Pumpkins release Oceania, a comeback album that doesn't disappoint.
The last time I thought about the Smashing Pumpkins was back in 1995 when my dad was dead set on playing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in its entirety, deeming it sinful to listen to it any other way. Sure, I went to a Zwan concert sometime in the 2000s, but enough time had passed to stop expecting another Siamese Dream. For the past couple of years, despite the fact that he’s the only remaining original member, Billy Corgan has been pumping out less-than-noteworthy tracks with a reformed version of The Smashing Pumpkins, and until the release of Oceania, there hasn’t been much to show.
“I was dead set on making an album where every song was just as valuable as any other, ignoring the typical claptrap you hear about needing a single,” explained Corgan in a press release late last week. “The only way to make the case that every song on Oceania is worth hearing is to put your heart into the sequence as a cohesive whole.” Recorded in the group’s studio in Chicago, Oceania is an album within an album, as it is said to be part of the 44-track concept album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. “I’ve been adamant in stressing that as a group, first and foremost, we are here to make new music together,” says Corgan. “I’m proud to say that on Oceania I feel we’ve cut our own path forward. Jeff, Mike, and Nicole (members of the group) have all made significant contributions to the tone and texture of Oceania, which is an album that is unlike any I’ve ever made. Yet at the same time I believe it upholds the same musical values I’ve always pushed for with The Pumpkins, be they progressive, emotional, epic, or restless.”
And that it does. Tracks from Oceania may never replace “1979” in your heart, but it is an honest-to-goodness good album straight from Corgan’s pleasantly skewed brain. With its layered guitar and vintage keyboard tracks, “The Celestials” is possibly the most melancholy song on the album, yet the unironic “I’m going to love you 101 percent” Corgan scratches out after the first chorus may make you giggle. “The Chimera,” a heavy metal track, nearly outdoes the album opener “Quasar” with its scorching guitar riffs and heavy drums. If you’re a fan of the return of synthesizers in music that has been happening of late, you’ll be happy to hear that almost all of the songs are jam-packed with the stuff, like in the poignant ballad “Violet Rays.”
Yes, the “real” Smashing Pumpkins are long gone, but it’s undeniable Corgan has created a handsome album with his new crew. It’s definitely the best music Corgan has produced in quite some time, and it’s refreshing to have it under the Smashing Pumpkins name.
Best Tracks: “Pale Horse,” “Pinwheels,” “Violet Rays”
Skip These: “One Diamond, One Heart”