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Smashing Pumpkins, The - Oceania Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 7
Lyrics 7
Production 7
Creativity 7
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 7
Final Verdict: 70%
Member Ratings
Vocals 6.55
Musicianship 7.3
Lyrics 6.05
Production 7.45
Creativity 6.7
Lasting Value 6.8
Reviewer Tilt 7.4
Average: 69%

Smashing Pumpkins, The - Oceania

Reviewed by: Craig Manning (08/29/12)
The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Record Label: EMI


It’s weird: I’ve been listening to The Smashing Pumpkins for almost seventeen years, ever since my brother added the sprawling double album that is Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness to his CD collection. In that time, I’ve pretty much gone along with the crowd, adoring the band’s revered songs and albums, spurning their indulgences and failures, and basically writing off Billy Corgan (and his ego) after it was clear that his glory days were behind him. In that sense, I guess I’ve never really become a true fan of the Pumpkins, even in all the time that I’ve been familiar with their music. That makes a certain amount of sense, since I spent my childhood far more enthralled by mainstream roots/country influenced music (The Wallflowers, Counting Crows) than by Corgan’s brand of dark alternative rock. I loved the hits, stuff like “1979,” “Disarm,” and “Tonight, Tonight,” songs with big sweep, great melodies, and fairly safe, accessible structures. I struggled more with the harder rock songs, and moments like “XYU” or “Tales of a Scorched Earth” were ones that I almost always skipped on my listens through Mellon Collie.

It’s not surprising that Corgan’s suffocating, totalitarian band-leading style led to the destruction of the original Smashing Pumpkins. It’s well known in Pumpkins lore that Corgan went back and re-recorded the guitar and bass parts on Siamese Dream, thinking – probably correctly – that he could play them better himself. The band went their separate ways shortly after the turn of the century, and only drummer Jimmy Chamberlain returned in 2006 when Corgan decided to make a “comeback” album. The result, Zeitgeist was arguably the worst album Corgan ever made, with or without the Pumpkins moniker: a dull, self-indulgent mess of a record, with metallic production and songs that, even at their best, just weren’t very good.

Chamberlain called it quits in 2009 and Corgan replaced him too: he kickstarted a series of conceptual EPs (called Teargarden by Kaleidyscope), and for the first time, he was the only original member left standing. But The Smashing Pumpkins, at there core, were always Corgan’s brainchild anyway, and for the eighth full-length album under the moniker, Oceania, he sounds largely re-energized and reborn. It doesn’t hurt that the band, made up of a trio of young guns, acquit themselves remarkably well, or that Corgan actually has the musical means to go after his more ambitious ideas (look no further than the sprawling, nine-minute title track, a gorgeous suite of a song that actually justifies its length, unlike the painful “United States” from the last record). All told, Oceania is the best Corgan has sounded since Mellon Collie, the first time in a decade where the use of The Smashing Pumpkins name doesn’t feel like an embarrassment to his legacy, and, perhaps most importantly, a set of songs worth hearing and replaying.

Make no mistake, Oceania is still far from perfect. It’s too bloated and overlong for its own good (at almost exactly one hour, the album will lose listeners at its less compelling moments), and Corgan often seems like he’s trying to recreate songs from previous albums – albeit, less successfully. But the fact that the frontman keeps his ego in check and dodges his hubristic indulgences throughout, even if the result comes across as relatively “safe,” could also be viewed as the key to the album’s ultimate victory. Judging from the journalistic response to the post-glory days Pumpkins output, from Adore to the Machina albums, and certainly to Zeitgeist, it almost seemed like listeners were yearning to hear Corgan to do things like he used to. He does his best to satisfy that desire here, conjuring up Siamese Dream’s fuzzy-guitar fury on opener “Quasar,” delivering a less theatrical re-write of “Disarm” on “The Celestials,” the acoustic-based first single, and bursting through the gates on “The Chimera” with a “the-90s-called-and-they-want-their-guitar-sound-back” style riff thrown in for good measure.

Musically, Oceania is fairly captivating throughout. Haunting synth-lines drive highlights like “Violet Rays,” “One Diamond, One Heart,” and album-closer “Wildflower,” while “Pale Horse” has a chiming romantic sweep that is nothing short of cinematic. The centerpiece, a liltingly gorgeous power ballad called “Pinwheels,” builds from yet-another synthesizer intro into an anthem, showcasing ringing guitar lines (including a stunning slide-guitar that serenades the arrangement) and a bed of strings that give the song an orchestral sensibility. In fact, the music is so stunning that Billy Corgan ends up being, rather ironically, the weakest player in the entire production. Corgan has never been a great singer, but his tortured delivery was perfect for connecting with listeners in the old days, and his unique nasally tone only ever added to the mood that the band’s music was going for. This time around though, something feels off: maybe it’s the production, which is too slick to lend the record a true throwback appeal; perhaps it’s the mix, which places the vocals at an awkward level throughout; or it could be the lyrics, which generally come across as insipid and uninspired. Regardless of the cause, Oceania lacks the emotional force that it needed to transcend what it is: a former rock star trying to sound vital again. Corgan makes big steps towards that goal, and it’s clear that he has the musical integrity, the arrangements, and especially the supporting talent that he needs get there, but for now, he’s still stuck in the waiting room.

7/10

Additional InformationTrack Listing:

1. Quasar
2. Panopticon
3. The Celestials
4. Violet Rays
5. My Love Is Winter
6. One Diamond, One Heart
7. Pinwheels
8. Oceania
9. Pale Horse
10. The Chimera
11. Glissandra
12. Inkless
13. Wildflower
Produced by: Billy Corgan, Bjorn Thorsrud

The Smashing Pumpkins (2012 edition) are:

Billy Corgan
Jeff Schroeder
Mike Byrne
Nicole Florentino

Official Website; Facebook; AP.net Profile
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 33
08:02 AM on 08/29/12
#2
jasonisasleep
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i like this album. not billy's best work, but better than anything since Machina
08:48 AM on 08/29/12
#3
ExtremeAvalanch
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This is the Pumpkins' best album since Mellon Collie. I had no hopes for this album, and I was absolutely blown away. "Panopticon" is a classic.
08:58 AM on 08/29/12
#4
Amongster
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The Pumpkins have been my favourite band since age 12 or so. In regards to the music this time around, Billy said, "It is the first time where you actually hear me escape the old band. I'm not reacting against it or for it or in the shadow of it," and that's apparent in this recording. These tunes hold the spirit of Smashing Pumpkins with a completely new energy.

The songs sound like they came about organically, unlike the other post-Machina tunes. Everyone sounds totally comfortable with their instrument, something that makes the title track a breeze to get through and "Violet Rays" especially transcendent. Instrumentation also seems less wanky and more like jamming, due to the absence of Jimmy Chamberlin's tense jazz-rock technique and presence of Nicole Fiorentino's powerful grooves.

One description that comes to mind (if using Billy's previous work as an example) is a cross between Gish, Adore, and Zwan's Mary Star of the Sea, in the best possible way. If Corgan & crew lost you in 2000, this is album is a solid reminder of why you enjoyed this band in the first place. Perfect for a rainy afternoon and well-worth the $7.99 on iTunes.
09:03 AM on 08/29/12
#5
Archael
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This is a bit late don't you think?
09:10 AM on 08/29/12
#6
xburningcoffin
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This is the Pumpkins' best album since Mellon Collie. I had no hopes for this album, and I was absolutely blown away. "Panopticon" is a classic.
This is true. The music falls somewhere between Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. Lyrically falls somewhere between Zwan and Zeitgeist. The amount of times he uses the word "love" is nauseating. I LOVE this record though. I am unclear if this is part of the Teargarden series, are they 13 of the 44 tracks or is this a diversion? Also, are they halting Teargarden or is it still going?
09:46 AM on 08/29/12
#7
Craig Manning
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This is a bit late don't you think?

Well I wasn't writing here when it released, and since there's been a bit of a lull for new material (for me at least), I figured I'd go back and write about some of the older stuff that didn't get much attention around here. Glen Hansard was the same way (and the same release date, too).

This is true. The music falls somewhere between Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. Lyrically falls somewhere between Zwan and Zeitgeist. The amount of times he uses the word "love" is nauseating. I LOVE this record though. I am unclear if this is part of the Teargarden series, are they 13 of the 44 tracks or is this a diversion? Also, are they halting Teargarden or is it still going?

Pretty sure it's part of Teargarden.
09:58 AM on 08/29/12
#8
OurLadyCoolbean
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Wow didn't expect to see this one get reviewed.

The Pumpkins are my favorite band of all time, so naturally I'm going to be biased, but I disagree about him trying to recreate the past. I think the sounds on here feel new, fresh, and inspired.

But a well-written review, props!
12:10 PM on 08/29/12
#9
grimis16
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I loved Adore and Machina at the time of both of their releases. I haven't listened to either in quite some time, but I still have fond memories of them.
12:16 PM on 08/29/12
cubsml34
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Wow didn't expect to see this one get reviewed.

The Pumpkins are my favorite band of all time, so naturally I'm going to be biased, but I disagree about him trying to recreate the past. I think the sounds on here feel new, fresh, and inspired.

But a well-written review, props!
I agree with everything here, most importantly the favorite band of all time part haha.

Indeed I thought this was well-written. It's incredibly realistic given how different the songs sound like from any 90's material they released. As much as the comparisons from songs like Quasar line up with their glory day albums, I still couldn't believe that any of these songs could've came out on those albums (even though the structure and guitar tones might be more in line). The album is good for what it's worth and I do think it's better than Zeitgeist, better than Adore, and about equal or slightly below Machina Part 1 (some songs on that album just kick ass, i.e. "The Everlasting Gaze, Age of Innocence"). I think he's really trying to distance himself from the old material with the eclectic array of synths and lyrical delivery (nothing Silverfuck or An Ode to No One caliber here), and the songs show it.
01:31 PM on 08/29/12
jesse_hitz
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This is a great album i would really recommend buying it.
01:53 PM on 08/29/12
Phil507
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It's funny how perceptions change over the years. When I was growing up The Wallflowers and Counting Crows were ridiculed for being not "alternative" enough yet, nowadays, people seem to be super passionate about them while scoffing at the Pumpkins.

Anyways, this album is great.
02:28 PM on 08/29/12
HogarthHughes
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I agree with everything here, most importantly the favorite band of all time part haha.

Indeed I thought this was well-written. It's incredibly realistic given how different the songs sound like from any 90's material they released. As much as the comparisons from songs like Quasar line up with their glory day albums, I still couldn't believe that any of these songs could've came out on those albums (even though the structure and guitar tones might be more in line). The album is good for what it's worth and I do think it's better than Zeitgeist, better than Adore, and about equal or slightly below Machina Part 1 (some songs on that album just kick ass, i.e. "The Everlasting Gaze, Age of Innocence"). I think he's really trying to distance himself from the old material with the eclectic array of synths and lyrical delivery (nothing Silverfuck or An Ode to No One caliber here), and the songs show it.
Machina also has one of my all-time favorite Pumpkins songs, "Stand Inside Your Love."
02:43 PM on 08/29/12
OurLadyCoolbean
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Machina also has one of my all-time favorite Pumpkins songs, "Stand Inside Your Love."
YES. Probably within my top 3 favorite songs of all time. That e-bow solo...
03:12 PM on 08/29/12
Craig Manning
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Wow didn't expect to see this one get reviewed.

The Pumpkins are my favorite band of all time, so naturally I'm going to be biased, but I disagree about him trying to recreate the past. I think the sounds on here feel new, fresh, and inspired.

But a well-written review, props!

Thanks man, I appreciate it. I think you can definitely make direct comparisons between some of these songs and some of Corgan's older work. That said, the best moments are free of that shadow.

It's funny how perceptions change over the years. When I was growing up The Wallflowers and Counting Crows were ridiculed for being not "alternative" enough yet, nowadays, people seem to be super passionate about them while scoffing at the Pumpkins.

Anyways, this album is great.

No scoffing here, just noting that my tastes have always veered more towards the "softer" side of alternative.
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