Smashing Pumpkins, The – Oceania
Record Label: EMI/Martha’s Music
Release Date: June 19th 2012
It was September 2009 when The Smashing Pumpkins ringleader Billy Corgan enthusiastically proclaimed the death of the album format by announcing his newly thought up music release technique, a process which was to be based around the releasing of individual tracks for free via the internet as they were recorded, mixed and completed. It was Corgan’s view that the internet age of music listeners consume music casually and so a casual release pattern was what they now called for. This project was given the title Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and was envisaged as being a 44 track package which would eventually be released as 11 four track EP’s as the project continued. An individual claiming the death of his art is of course not a new occurrence in history; in fact it has been an integral part of the modernist movements in the early to mid-20th century. An artist would proclaim the death of something, and a post death, or post-modern, version would quickly appear. Teargarden by Kaleidyscope managed to provide us with a new track every one to two months from December 2009 until May 2011 in which case they then ceased. Ten tracks ultimately appeared up until that time. This new release, entitled Oceania, is a continuation of the Teargarden project and is The Smashing Pumpkins own version of a post-modern album. In Corgan’s own words it should be seen as an “album within an album”.
Despite Corgans’ earlier declaration it seems that the dead album format is not completely deceased after all, well not just yet.
The Smashing Pumpkins of 2012 is now made up of only one original member, but this should not put you off the record by any means as Oceania contains a lot of tracks which are firmly locked into the vibes of the earlier Pumpkins songs before the original band ultimately hit self-destruct mode. The current line-up of newbies includes Jeff Schroeder on guitar, Nicole Fiorentino on bass/backing vocals and the 22 year old fresh faced college graduate Mike Byrne on drums. These guys certainly do not sound musically like the original members, and interestingly Pumpkins dictator Corgan has actually given them and their instruments a lot of room to breathe on this record, more so than perhaps he has with past members (Corgan admitted later in life that he pretty much recorded Siamese Dream on his own as he perceived his band mates to be inept in studio). The opening riff on first track “Quasar” when heard rippling along with the introductory drum sequence is a straight up throwback to Gish era Pumpkins, the guitar solos and reverb have finally returned! Another early track “The Celestials” appears to be the most radio friendly track on the album, which was later confirmed with the track being sent to radio stations as the album promo track. The track is light and frothy with a chorus of guitar chugging to rival the lively spirit evident in Corgan’s tone. The lyrics however are nonsensical at best, so you may have some trouble trying to sing along triumphantly. The lyrical incapacities are evident across the board here, and can never under any circumstances be hidden by any amount of solid instrumentation: and especially not by a band this late into its career.
Other stand out tracks include “My Love Is Winter” and “One Diamond, One Heart” in which Corgan stays fairly close to the most basic of song structures and even throws in a chilling synth into the latter track, which happens occasionally on the album (see: “Pinwheels” and the echoey closer “Wildflower”). When compared to the tracks released so far on Teargarden, the selection found on Oceania is easily a lot more cohesively better as the project so far has lacked a main focus or drive, and the previous tracks have suffered in my view from this lack of a solid direction. Oceania is direct and does not deviate from the mellow sound that the new crew of members have tried to push the record towards. It is by no means the Pumpkins best effort, but it is certainly the best and most cohesive since Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and considering that was released in 1995 it is about time that the Pumpkins have reached some sort of musical height. The future for this band is finally bright again, but it remains to be seen as to how loyal Corgan and Co. will remain to the Teargarden project which they initially started in 2009 now that they are finally receiving some recognition for their latest effort. If we are to take anything from the diverse successes and failures of The Smashing Pumpkins, it is safe to say not even Corgan and Co. know right now.
Well, this review is by far better than the other review of the album, at least in my opinion. I really don't like Billy Corgan's voice and I think if they could have another vocalist they would have been far better. Of course, he is the main songwriter, so he would not accept this offer! Overally, I have the same opinion, apart from vocals for this album, everything else was outstanding.