Latest release ‘Oceania’ would ring classic without melancholy, acoustic ramblings
Hailed by many as forerunners of the alternative rock saturation brought on by the 1990s, The Smashing Pumpkins are contemporary again in 2012.
The Chicago band’s biting guitar riffs and cavernous, electric melodies continue to follow them on their latest offering. Thirteen tracks of an ambitious, 44-song project released online one at a time since 2009, known as “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope,” are now available as what the band describes an “album within an album.”
The band’s leader and only original member on “Oceania” is Billy Corgan. His lyrics extend beyond past themes of heartbreak and loneliness, although they are ever-present, reaching further into a naturalist sense of the psychedelic.
And Corgan’s croonings, often put down for ear-wrenching whines and accused melodramatic screeches, are surprisingly subtle. The atmosphere of this recording is left dominated by bombastic percussion grooves and retro-toned synthesizers, surrounded in combat with the Pumpkins’ signature waterfall of sonic distortion and space-age guitar effects.
The opening track, “Quasar,” wrenches with guitar-slashed angst, forced onward into anger by drums both manic and violently rhythmic. This onslaught aggressively opens the album in similar fervor to 1993’s “Siamese Dream,” torn open by the charging and distorted, “Cherub Rock.”
“Oceania” doesn’t grind at eardrums for long. On the third track, “The Celestials,” the band experiments with synth-infused balladry giving way to melodic, pop-rock.
Deeper further, “Pinwheels,” delights listeners with sweetly-organic synthesizer loops, but the electric bliss serves only as a 90-second introduction to the airy cliché of a five-minute, yawn-fest folk ballad.
Campy, over-indulgent romance was sprinkled across the inventive, cacophonic darkness of “Oceania.” At least four of the 13 songs could easily embarrass listeners in an obvious sense of false vulnerability moaned over by the aging, yet strangely juvenile front man.
“Oceania’s” experiments do come to fruition midway through the album. The title track’s continuously pulsing drumbeats pound out of speakers, augmented by electronic melodies both cagily creepy and arrestingly classic when observed for the first time.
By the end of “Oceania,” The Smashing Pumpkins returned to their guitar-driven roots, emoted egotistically albeit briefly and sending listeners to bed with synth-ridden chills.
The final track finds Corgan’s tragic voice wandering, lonely among a drum-less tundra of keyboard chimes and textures. Corgan chants: “I’m wasted, along the way.”
As this auditory painting comes to life, listeners are left entranced in wonder of what is to come.
Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
Label: Martha’s Music
Genre: Alternative Rock
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