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This review is from: Oceania (Audio CD)
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.