SMASHING PUMPKINS Oceania
Being an album with an album, the 13 song “Oceania” is extracted from the far bigger, still unreleased 44 song “Teargarden by Kaliedoscope” : Billy, where the hell do you find these titles? This is absurd.
Being the first Pumpkins record with Jimmy Chamberlain on drums, the Pumpkins are now, to be strict, an extension of Corgans solo identity in the rock format. Less than the traditional idea of a band, more than a solo project, The Pumpkins of 2012 are now – 25 years on – a weird prospect : much like other bands of ever rotating members – where the identity sits not in people, but in sounds and rhythms. Would you know that this lineup shares only one person with the band that recorded 2000's “Machines Of God”? Would you care? When you're in the crowd of the London O2, or the Seattle Dome, or whereever, it might be irrelevant. At least one person told me they saw Pink Floyd performing “The Wall” last year, even though not one member of the final Floyd lineup was present.
“Quasar” opens : rampaging, angry rhythms, rolling bass, growling guitars. This is how Corgan does it. The lyrics are the usual stuff : questioning, semi-sixth form poetry (not that this is a bad thing), but also spiritually stuck, dealing with the same concerns and issues he was twenty years ago. Sonically there is not much progression – and this is no bad thing either. When the template is at a certain standard, there is little refinement to make. The production is clear and dynamic with slight compression in the mastering. Whilst lacking in killer hits that are instant setlist classics, there are 13 solid songs
To be blunt though, I started to get bored on first listen. The songs all sound roughly the same with similar tempos, structures, and with no ebb and flow : it is only when the set moves into second gear with “One Diamond, One Heart” and “Pinwheels”, and the palette widens to a much larger canvas, that the record lose the one dimensionality and claustrophobia the first half has. No one can deny Corgans justified passion and artistic integrity in following his vision, but perhaps it might be time for him and the Pumpkins to spread their wings a little wider, to explore the world a little more.