The Smashing Pumpkins will play the 2012 Splendour in the Grass music festival.
The Smashing Pumpkins will play the 2012 Splendour in the Grass music festival. Patrick Martin, Splendour media

Album review: Smashing Pumpkins

THERE were few people more underwhelmed by The Smashing Pumpkins comeback album Zeitgeist than Billy Corgan.

The music industry had changed radically since the band had last put out an album; "fans" had not only stopped buying albums, they had stopped listening.

So when people inevitably lost interest in the "reformed" Smashing Pumpkins, it became quite clear to Corgan that he had to do something quite radical in order to adapt to the changed landscape.

Now I've never been a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan at the best of times, even their highly-acclaimed Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness could not spark any significant emotions in me.

This is probably why I was so surprised when I actually heard the album Oceania.

Now Corgan is usually remarkably honest in interviews, and even he has admitted that he wrote his best tunes between 1992-1995, but he said he was going to write a great album this time around and I think he has done it.

From the opening two tunes, Quasar and Panopticon, the album is off to a flying start.

With Earth-shaking rhythms, throbbing bass lines and what sounds like around 40 guitar tracks all fighting each other to be heard in the cacophony of sounds, Corgan wasn't lying when he was said he was aiming for a huge sound.

The album does slow down and pursue a mellower, melodic route after these tracks, and it is that side of the Pumpkins that I have never really liked, but it's different this time around.

First single The Celestials almost harks back to the acoustic sounds of Disarm, but it changes radically the moment it starts to get boring to some big pop rock beast, something they had not really been able to do successfully before.

Tracks like Pale Horse and the albums title track show off Corgan's ability to capture atmosphere in music while The Chimera is almost a classic Pumpkins rock'n'roll sound.

While there are tracks that are reminiscent of that older Pumpkins sound, it's not the same thing.

It's definitely The Smashing Pumpkins but it's certainly not Siamese Dream or Gish revisited.

Anybody familiar with this band should know that a lot of their material can take a little while to grow on you, and this album is no different.

By that token, given how much the world has changed since 1993 or 1995, I don't expect this album to win over many new fans, but I think it will give hope to those who continued to hold the torch.

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