Album review: The Smashing Pumpkins - 'Oceania'
They’re still in the middle of releasing the behemoth 44-track tarot-inspired 'Teargarden by Kaleidyscope' and The Smashing Pumpkins interlude with a magical ‘album within an album’ which reminds me of why I love this band so much.
Oceania is a 13-track journey into frontman Billy Corgan’s refusal to abandon The Pumpkins and keep it real. And real it is.
Okay, so they’re not really the original Pumpkins – Corgan has lost the mandatory Asian, the superfrigginhot bassist and one of the best things to ever crawl out of a drum kit, but they could very well have fallen off the planet because now it’s all Corgan – front and centre.
Even though the thing holding The Smashing Pumpkins together is Corgan and his distinctive, unmistakable voice, the band is back to what it was before the Adore and Zeitgeist days.
This is more Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness than the Pumpkins has been in years. Quite a feat considering the rocky road the band has had to travel since drummer Jimmy Chamberlain’s imprisonment just before Adore in 1996.
The replacements do a great job of supporting the Billy Corgan I remember from 1995, whose entire being is still tuned to the ‘90s. This is one for those – like me – who can’t really let the ‘90s go. Corgan’s weird sense of solidarity is comforting. Like being wrapped in a blanket of being tuned into Barney Simon on 5fm when I should have been sleeping. Yes, you know what I’m talking about.
In a realistic scenario, one would have to choose between a collection of singles or a concept album. But this is not the real world. This is Corgan’s world. He has both; the Kaleidoscope concept of ‘there is no space for albums anymore’ and the concept album of Oceania, which needs to be listened to from beginning to end.
As a result, this album is somewhere between awesome and madness.
Opening with Quasar is the modern-day I Am One with a little less Chamberlin and a little more Dave Grohl. Less flair and more precision. From such an epic opening, the album goes into dreamy Corgan-world where everything is a cardboard cut-out of some half-remembered dream with Panopticon, The Celestials My Love Is Winter, which tugs at my heartstrings
One Diamond, One Heart is a sweet space-like love song, and Pinwheels’ acoustic floaty vibe is sweet.
Title track Oceania is a mesh of everything Corgan can do. With guitar, random sounds and vocals. I don’t know if I like it. It doesn’t gel.
The almost atmospheric Pale Horse is just gorgeous, ambitious yet understated, with deep drums and a stunning melody trickling into your ears slowly and ever so gently. Shit gets real. I love it.
The Chimera is one for the radio and has an almost pop feel. Though Glissandra makes up for it, taking me back to Disc 2 of Melon Collie.
The album reaches a surreal closing with Wildflower, which wraps itself around you and lifts you to another plane – perhaps those clouds from the Tonight Tonight video.
I have not been this enchanted by The Pumpkins since Machina. It’s forceful, gripping and though not ground-breaking, makes its way into new just-almost-electronic but somewhat familiar rock terrain.
It’s Eye meets The End is the Beginning is the End.
I cannot wait to see how the rest of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope turns out. If this little musical interlude is anything to go by, my eager ears await.