on 23 June 2012
Until recently I wished that Billy Corgan had never reformed the Smashing Pumpkins. As a die-hard fan, the mediocrity of Zeitgeist was hard to stomach - but not half as hard as the forgettable Teargarden material that followed. Only 'The Rose March' off the American Gothic EP hinted that Corgan still had the ability to pen a good song, but even then the rest of that EP was disappointing. With each new offering, I became more and more convinced that Corgan's creative juices had run dry.
Then along came Oceania, and Corgan's claim that it was the best thing he'd done since Mellon Collie. I bought the album more in hope than expectation, deliberately ignoring the growing buzz and the free availability of the tracks online. I went in almost totally cold (I'd heard a bit of My Love Is Winter six months before, but that was the only exposure I had).
I was promptly blown away. Corgan is right: this *is* the best thing he's done since Mellon Collie.
Stylistically Oceania contains hints of earlier albums; a touch of Gish's psychedelia, a bit of Siamese Dream's sonic fuzz, some of Mellon Collie's poetry and a few of the electronic beats and loops of Adore (thankfully there's none of Zeitgeist in there). There's even a touch of Zwan about it (Corgan's ill-fated post-Pumpkins band). Yet the end result is an album that sounds completely unique; it's unquestionably a Smashing Pumpkins album, but it feels different. It feels fresh - a new start, a rebirth.
Oceania mixes quite a few different styles. Quasar is a stomping rocker, a throwback to the Gish/Siamese Dream days. The Celestials showcases the classic soft/heavy dynamic that has always been the Pumpkins' trademark. My Love Is Winter is one of the more instantaneous tracks, and is driven by Mike Byrne's energetic drumming and Corgan's soaring guitar lines. One Diamond, One Heart is packed with melody and is led by synth. Pinwheels is as diverse a track as they've ever done, opening with an electronic loop before the sweeping guitars chime in, then elegantly morphing into something pleasantly surprising. The Chimera brings both the fuzz and the groove, and packs a melodic punch.
Despite the different styles and influences, the tracks all gel nicely and there's a real feel of continuity and consistency - which hasn't always been the case with Pumpkins records (Machina, for example, is a bit of a mess in this regard). It manages to rock without being that heavy an album, and the surprising amount of synth works perfectly and isn't overbearing. Corgan's voice sounds better than it has done for years - in fact, the production is vastly superior to previous albums. The new members of the Pumpkins bring a lot to the table; Byrne's drumming is excellent, while Nicole Fiorentino's bass and backing vocals add another dimension. Most importantly, Billy Corgan has rediscovered the creative spark that drove him to write the band's earlier classic albums. He's mined it to good effect here, and actually sounds like he's enjoying himself - Oceania is a surprisingly upbeat album. The Pumpkins sound like a rejuvenated band.
Hopefully this record will herald the start of a bright new chapter in the Pumpkins' chequered history, but only time will tell. What is certain though, is that Oceania is a sterling effort and a very welcome return to form for the Pumpkins. It may have taken Corgan six years since reforming the Pumpkins to produce something worthy of the band's name, but the wait was well worth it.
Being an album within an album, the 13 song "Oceania" is extracted from the far bigger, still unreleased 44 song "Teargarden by Kaliedoscope" : Billy, where the hell do you find these titles? This is absurd.
Being the first Pumpkins record without Jimmy Chamberlain on drums, the Pumpkins are now, to be strict, an extension of Corgans solo identity in the rock format. Less than the traditional idea of a band, more than a solo project, The Pumpkins of 2012 are now - 25 years on - a weird prospect : much like other bands of ever rotating members - where the identity sits not in people, but in sounds and rhythms. Would you know that this lineup shares only one person with the band that recorded 2000's "Machines Of God"? Would you care? When you're in the crowd of the London O2, or the Seattle Dome, or whereever, it might be irrelevant. At least one person told me they saw Pink Floyd performing "The Wall" last year, even though not one member of the final Floyd lineup was present.
"Quasar" opens : rampaging, angry rhythms, rolling bass, growling guitars. This is how Corgan does it. The lyrics are the usual stuff : questioning, semi-sixth form poetry (not that this is a bad thing), but also spiritually stuck, dealing with the same concerns and issues he was twenty years ago. Sonically there is not much progression - and this is no bad thing either. When the template is at a certain standard, there is little refinement to make. The production is clear and dynamic with slight compression in the mastering. Whilst lacking in killer hits that are instant setlist classics, there are 13 solid songs
To be blunt though, I started to get bored on first listen. The songs all sound roughly the same with similar tempos, structures, and with no ebb and flow : it is only when the set moves into second gear with "One Diamond, One Heart" and "Pinwheels", and the palette widens to a much larger canvas, that the record lose the one dimensionality and claustrophobia the first half has. No one can deny Corgans justified passion and artistic integrity in following his vision, but perhaps it might be time for him and the Pumpkins to spread their wings a little wider, to explore the world a little more.
on 18 June 2012
OK, so I am a HUGE Pumpkins fan, and have been a fan since I first heard Mellon Collie in 1995. That album blew me away, and they became my favorite band instantly. Since then I have bought everything I could find including all albums, demos, dvds, unreleased stuff, live albums etc. And for me every album is a 5 star album apart from Adore (4 stars) and the disappointing Zeitgeist (3 stars.) And so after Zeitgeist I had fairly low expectations for Oceania. I didn't enjoy previous Teargarden releases, and it seemed to me that the band's best day's were behind them. Billy has reinvented the band with new members after Jimmy Chamberlin left, including an excellent young drummer Mike Byrne. First of all Oceania sounds like a proper Smashing Pumpkins album. Billy has taken inspiration from his previous Pumpkins albums and somehow mixed them all together to make something new, but at the same time recognizable as the Smashing Pumpkins. Back is the emotion of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, back are the synth's from Adore. Back is the psychedelia of Gish etc. Yes Corgan has really brought the focus back with the new line-up. Oceania may not be a Mellon-Collie, but it is a very solid album. I have listened through the album 6 or so times so far and I am surprised at just how good it is. Oceania comfortably sits alongside other classic albums like Machina, Gish, and Pisces Iscariot as a very good Smashing Pumpkins album. And let's be honest, who saw that coming? I didn't!
on 27 September 2013
If you like the work of billy corgan and his smashing pumpkins , you will love this ,
I had read it was "a return to form" album - whatever that means ?? So i bought it ...
I am not saying you will fall in love with this on the first listen ( how many albums do you ever do that anyway), and on the first listen i actually disliked the first track (quaser) and just thought the rest was ok !
BUT , by the third listen i was loving it , and even liking Quaser ,
Now on my umpteenth listen i am loving it and the "teardrop project" and holding them with such esteemed company as Siamese Dreams , meloncollie, Machina and side A of Gish (never liked side B ..... but thats a whole different debate)
So all in all if you like the music of the smashing pumpkins , buy this cos you will love it - as it really is a return to form ...... whatever that means ???
on 15 October 2015
This album has got such a fresh and unique sound to it. People may think billy corgans appeal has dwindled but as in the
words of Billy Corgan "You can only run at a thousand miles an hour for so long" it's in the same vein as Kurt cobain's borrowed phrase
"It's better to burn out than to fade away" From his retirement note (not a suicide note at all) Even if Kurt cobain lived, Nirvana would of broken up anyway. So yes Billy Corgan may have faded not in
talent but in the commercial eye, he is still a true musician and a pure musical genius. These rappers and pop stars hog the limelight, but
Billy stays true to himself and his music rather doing siamese dream 2, he does what he wants, for the music. A stunningly unique and densely
layered beautiful album, absolutely riddled with gems!
on 12 August 2012
The Smashing Pumpkins gained most of their success in the 90's with critically acclaimed recordings such as "Siamese Dream" and the double album "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness". They split up in 2000 and then, minus several original band members, they reformed to create "Zeitgeist" which received very mixed reactions from fans. However, 5 years later, "Oceania" shows a return to form for The Smashing Pumpkins and is a very interesting, diverse and well written album.
"Quasar" is a great opener with powerful elecric guitars, a strong melody and those distinctive vocals from Billy Corgan. "Panopticon" follows in the same vein with an equal amount of vehemance and angst. The following track "The Celestials" is a fantastic track with great vocals, a dark and infectious melody and sombre arrangements making it the first highlight of the album. "Violet Rays" is another gem of a song with a stomping anthemic chorus and is the second highlight. The third highlight "My Love Is Winter" is just as addictive, but is more radio friendly and has a stronger Pop influence. "One Diamond, One Heart" is another catchy number with layered synthesisers reminiscent of the 80's Pop culture. "Pinwheels" is a Pop Rock ballad with an atmospheric and acoustic feel to it and the lengthy title track "Oceania" is a song filled with changes in tempo and arrangements, similar in composition to a concerto. The haunting "Pale Horse" has a heavy rhythm and a wonderful anthemic guitar and piano led chorus making it the fourth highlight. "The Chimera" is the fifth and final highlight and has a great energy combined with a stomping electric guitar led chorus and a fantastic melody - it is possibly one of the best songs Mr Corgan has composed. "Glissandra" is a cool Funk inspired Rock track and "Inklees" is a punchy song with heavy guitar arrangements once again. The final song "Wildflower" is a melancholic ballad with plush arrangements and an inspiring melody ending the album on a positive note - just as it started.
I believe that "Oceania" is The Smashing Pumpkins best work since their 1998 release "Adore" as it recreates the magical atmosphere that album has and could be classed as its follow up. Billy Corgan sounds revived and the song choices enhance his unique and intriguing vocals. "Oceania" may well be one of the best recordings of 2012.
on 12 July 2012
The first 'proper' album from the Pumpkins (well Mr Corgan anyway) since Zeitgeist, Oceania (still unsure how to pronounce it) shows the band under Billy's total control (give or take) is not cause for concern. Yes they were better earlier on in their career, and still haven't produced anything else as seminal as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, but this is a far better expression of intent since Adore. Zeitgeist wasn't bad as such (insomuch as Machina wasn't as good as everyone made out) but Oceania is just a very good rock record. It is assured, well-structured, doesn't pander to commercial needs and feels 'honest', as if a band go together and made some songs together because they wanted to. Some talented band. It's not groundbreaking but it's also unlike a lot of their previous material, heading toward the prog-rock side of music as opposed to the grunge/metal or alternative/indie sides.
Opener 'Quasar' is immediately powerful and smacks of material from Gish but doesn't shine as bright as it should. The lyrics are odd (to me) but that's not really the issue. The song itself is ok but not as strong as the opening song from a NEW Smashing Pumpkins album should be. 'Panopticon' fares slightly better and reminds of Mellon Collie's faster and more thoughtful moments. Again it's not perfect but still pretty good. It's when 'The Celestials' kicks in that the album starts to make waves. It is the unashamedly 'singley' song. It has an awesome chorus, hooks aplenty and a nicely ramped up guitar. But it's what it says that is important. And that is simply that the Pumpkins can make great music again. 'Violet Rays' is back to the alt-prog side of things again but in a good way. Again, the chorus kind of reminds of 'Galapagos' from Mellon Collie. It's good but demands a bit of your time to truly appreciate. Something 'My Love is Winter' doesn't. It's slightly run of the mill but by no means a bad song. It just seems, well, nice. As does also 'One Diamond, One Heart'. These tracks are more akin to the Adore era of the band. Again, not bad songs, just less rocky and slightly flimsy.
'Pinwheels' continues this but in much better fashion. It spends a minute or so introducing itself with electronica and then continues with a ballad of sorts and a superb mantra-esque chorus. The title track is a prog indulgence too far in my opinion. It is 9 minutes long, which is fine, but it twists and turns too many times to keep interest. After 6 or so listens it does begin to gel but it's not the best thing they've done by a long chalk.
It is after the title track when the best part of the album plays out. 'Pale Horse' is near-perfect. It's gentle, tuneful and uplifting. 'The Chimera' is the band at their playful and wistful best. The chorus is almost folk-inspired genius. 'Glissandra' is almost dance and most definitely pop, a little like 'Appels & Oranjes' from Adore, only miles better and more grown-up. 'Inkless' is similar in tone to Siamese Dream material and has an infectious, grungey riff. And the closer, 'Wildflower' is another quiet ballad that takes a while to enjoy but is also one of the best songs on the album.
So patchy in places, mainly from the start to the title track but nothing but perfection from there in.
To summarise best tracks are: 'The Celestials', 'Pale Horse', 'The Chimera', 'Glissandra', 'Inkless' and 'Wildflower'.
Look forward to what they're going to do next. Well that and the release of Machina II on cd for the first time.
Ok, you know how you get these groups who made their best work years ago, die hard fans live for a new release and no matter how average it is love it, I am not one of those. In fact when I first listened to this album I thought very little of it. However, just as i like but rarely encounter this is a real grower. It took me three listens and then I loved it. In fact i would go so far as to say it is their most complete album so far. Buy it, and give it a chance, listen through several times and if you have liked any of there past material you will like this.
on 22 June 2012
Apparently when journalists we're sent promo copies of Oceania they had strict instructions to listen to the whole album,as the songs only work as "a whole".There is also some guff about it being an "album within an album" whatever that means with some semi mystical concept lumped on for good measure.How it was made sure journalists listened to the album from start to finish is a matter of conjecture,but i would not be surprised if Billy sat in with the journalists staring them down.Ahh...Billy Corgan a proper old skool rock star,delightfully brittle,prone to self importance,lacking seriously in a thicker skin....petulant,difficult,divisive.I don't know about you but this is how i want my rock stars.I have a real disdain for this myth largely perpetuated by X Factor and the like that performers should be nice,you know the girl next door or when not singing a cheeky chap that could be serving you down the local.
I read in delight how Sir Billy recently at a no doubt hit single-less show berated an audience for not trusting him.The sheer amount of insecurity on display is so refreshing in a time of tail wagging,jukebox performing zombies.Even the most "alternative" acts nowadays are snuggling comfortably into pension plans,smiling for the cameras.
So thank lordy for Corgan.I have always harboured a theory that the artists that appear nicest publicy are truly horrid individuals behind closed doors so Chris Martin is a monstrous vegan throwing recycled cappucino cups at assistants,Will Smith makes young fans bow and pay for autographs....just a thought.
The one thing in Billy's defense is the dude can write a tune,play damn fine guitar.Even though there was a kind of uncool brother vibe about Pumpkins in comparison to your Nirvanas,Nine Inch Nails they owned the 90s with classic Siamese Dream,the wonderfully ambitious Mellon Collie and Adore,an album i..ahem..adore.I kind of fell off the Pumpkins train after this period but have always had a soft spot.
Pumpkins of 2012 obviously doesn't contain the key members of the 90s line up,a concession all fans will have to lump.What you do have is Sir Billy writing wonderfully bloated wig out rock and those wonderful vulnerable ballads.I enjoyed the album,it was like hooking up with an old friend.Though it has to be stated Oceania is not anything approaching the classic stuff.However it is commendable that Corgan hasn't just become some nolstagia act banging out the hits,though if they did i would be first in line.At times it seems Corgan has an active bitter disdain for his audience which i dig. It is very strange seeing Corgan,Reznor etc. getting old and come to think of it us listeners getting old.To the haters i am sincerely glad you hate,ALL GOOD artists should have opposition otherwise its bland indifference....who wants that apart from Cliff Richard?Billy is an icon.Bless his stripy socks.
on 18 December 2013
I really like what they've done with this album. My favourites are Siamese Dream and Melancholy', I don't love this album as much as those, but it's still good.