The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
There’s no way of writing about space-grunge rockers The Smashing Pumpkins without mentioning the exploits of frontman and vocalist Billy Corgan. The last man standing from the original founding members, Corgan continues to contradict himself in interview after interview. That’s pretty much the case with what is the Pumpkins’ ninth studio album Oceania.
Apparently part of a larger collection of songs titled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, this “album within an album” adds 13 more songs written by Corgan and his ever-changing lineup. Corgan had said he was done with creating albums, but the free songs that have trickled out as part of Teargarden... since 2009 hardly grabbed attention.
Even then, if you set those contradictions aside, ignore Corgan’s desperate pleas for attention, and just put on this album, you would experience a great return to form. Even though it’s just one out of four of the band’s famed line-up that brought hits such as ‘Tonight, Tonight’, ‘1979’, ‘Zero’, and ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings.’
This album opens with the lines “God right on! Krishna right on! Mark right on! Let’s ride on!” on ‘Quasar’, which is as pantheistic as it gets. The riffs are typically Pumpkins, a call back to the best albums.
There isn’t a theme connecting all the songs on Oceania, but that makes the sonic range much more interesting. ‘The Celestials’ is the radio-friendly pop grunge, while ‘Pinwheels’ is half-digital, half-echoed guitars, and mostly instrumental.
Corgan sings about bipolar medication on ‘Pale Horse’ and just intersperses lyrics on the nine-minute title track which fits right in the middle of the album, being meditative at best. Dreamy synth notes flow in ‘One Diamond, One Heart’ accompanied to some fairly unimaginative lyrics. ‘The Chimera’, ‘Glissandra’ and ‘Inkless’ come in pretty late, try to keep the listeners hooked, but it’s going to take a few more listens before that happens.
So it’s fair to say the album is a grower, especially with 13 tracks, averaging at four minutes apiece. After Oceania, Corgan should have learnt a few lessons about how being radical in the music industry doesn’t always have good effects, and how having a faithful lot of what should be permanent band members will do wonders.