had the pleasure to hear listened to the new Smashing Pumpkins album Oceania. Thankfully I did this via Spotify for had I paid more than the % of my monthly premium account it took to sit through it I’d have been a bit cheesed off.
I’m not sure why the media (think Rolling Stone, Pitchfork etc) took the strange step of giving this such a push – aside from the obvious industry politics. The biggest superlative I remember being thrown at it was that it sounded familiar, like Pumpkins of old. If, by that, they mean Billy Corgan not giving a fuck about the rest of the band then, yes, it may well be. In the past this meant playing all the parts now it seems not caring who he is playing with.
To be honest it’s one of the most disappointing things I’ve heard so far this year from the Big Name Bands. The only passing familiarity to old Pumpkins Gold (surely a worthy a blog of its own soon) is the vocal dynamics available thanks to Corgan taking on another female bassist. In fact, it’s the strange line-up of this band that means I tend to refer to them as Billy & The New Kids rather than besmear the name of that band that recorded Siamese Dream.
Let’s be fair though. The New Kids do a good job. They’re clearly capable musicians – how else would they get the gig – and hold their own. There are some good songs on hear. Some might even be among the finest stuff he’s peddled out in years -Pinwheels, Violet Rays and the title track Oceania in particular stand out. It’s a good country mile stronger than the dire ‘comeback’ album Zietgest. The problem is that while the New Kids try hard, it no longer feels like a band, more one man’s newest backing band. There’s no weight to it. A feeling of clout is missing.
Perhaps it’s for that reason – for the fact that of the faces under the ‘Pumpkins’ banner now only one looks familiar (though as a pale, slightly wrinkled, prune like version of the strangely endearing face that once sung of Spaceboys and Bullets With Butterfly Wings) – that this album isn’t doing it for me. Or, I imagine, a lot of fans.
So instead of sitting back waiting to be amazed I find myself listening, instead, for things to go ‘ugh’ over – like how when Billy sings the line “never let the summer catch you down” on Celestials it comes out as “never let the salmon get you down”.
I should point out that this is perhaps more upsetting as I’d quite liked some of the recent stuff put out as part of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope songs. “Song For A Son” was a slab of what once made me listen to them in the first place.
If this were a Billy Corgan album (even if he called it Billy & The New Kids) or even with a new band, I’d receive Oceania – on this point, seriously; wtaf is with these ridiculous bloody names, you’re not coming across as mystical or mysterious just some strangely creepy old hippy uncle who needs to put the tie-dye shirt away – a bit more warmly. I’m sure critics and fans would be beside themselves too. But to call it a Smashing Pumpkins album despite that there’s only Pumpkin on it, reeks of what it really is: “The new album by Billy Corgan who knows it won’t sell if it’s not called Smashing Pumpkins.”
I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just me that hates it when this happens. It’s not the first instance and sure won’t be the last – there’s the on going Guns N Roses chuckle and the new Courney Love’s Hole (though I saw that Hole had a genuine reunion that went without controversy recently) – instance of frontmen realising they can’t pack em in on their own like they do with the band.
Or perhaps it’s nostalgia. The biggest impact the new album had on me was to go back to the older, full-band albums and listen to those again.
Let’s finish this on a comparison.
VS my favourite (and, thanks to a Rolling Stone poll, I see the fan favourite):