Music Review: The Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania (Martha’s Music, CD)

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The Smashing Pumpkins "Oceania"

It’s nice to hear a Smashing Pumpkins record that sounds like it was made by the Smashing Pumpkins again. After Billy Corgan’s recent online releases of experimental, psychedelic compositions, the main Pumpkin is back to the sound that made him famous, with grinding guitars, propulsive drumming, and his own creepy ELO’s Jeff Lynne-meets-Pinhead from Hellraiser lead vocals.

In truth, Corgan is the Pumpkins; he’s the only original member in this lineup, and he writes and sings everything. The Pumpkins as a band exists to carry out his musical visions, but as this album proves as it crashes into opening track “Quasar”, Corgan can recreate the classic Pumpkins sound when he wants to.

For Oceania, Corgan has re-embraced his heavy past with a collection of potent new songs. “My Love is Winter” certainly nails the mixture of aggression and melody that Corgan and co. perfected on their epic 1995 double-CD set Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The nine-minute title track is a throwback to the spacier Pumpkins epics, but to its credit, it doesn’t get boring or wear out its welcome.

Lyrically, Oceania gets pretty gloomy and doomy, but no one expects sweetness and light from Corgan.

The Smashing Pumpkins may have gone through plenty of changes over the years, but with this current lineup, Corgan has put together a band capable of doing his new and old Pumpkins songs justice. Lead guitarist Jeff Schroeder and drummer Mike Byrne effectively recall founding members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain, while bassist Nicole Fiorentino adds the female backing vocals and harmonies that have always been a hallmark of the band’s sound, especially on the moody “Pale Horse.”

Potent, vibrant production that recalls the earthy sound of the band’s early releases helps drive this message home: The Pumpkins are back, whoever is in the band, and they’ve delivered their best album in a long time.

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