Following up on, and in many ways amending, much of the bombastic overcompensation of 2007's Zeitgeist, Smashing Pumpkins 2012 release Oceania is an exuberant, gloriously melodic, fluid return to form for Billy Corgan. While Zeitgeist certainly contained many of the elements that make for a classic Smashing Pumpkins release -- including slabs of ...
Following up on, and in many ways amending, much of the bombastic overcompensation of 2007's Zeitgeist, Smashing Pumpkins 2012 release Oceania is an exuberant, gloriously melodic, fluid return to form for Billy Corgan. While Zeitgeist certainly contained many of the elements that make for a classic Smashing Pumpkins release -- including slabs of distorted guitars, passionate vocals, and poetic lyrics, not to mention drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who was the sole remaining original member besides Corgan and who subsequently left the band -- there was something cold and perhaps a bit too calculated about the production. Ultimately, Zeitgeist didn't do much to dissuade audiences that Corgan, undeniably the mastermind behind the best Pumpkins work, was now overvaluing his abilities in an attempt to recapture fans disillusioned by his various side projects. Thankfully, none of these concerns are applicable to Oceania. Ostensibly an "album within an album" of the greater 44-track Teargarden by Kaleidyscope concept project, Oceania works as a stand-alone album. Conceptual conceits aside, these are some of the most memorable and rousing songs Corgan has delivered since 1993's Siamese Dream, the album that Oceania most closely mirrors in tone and aesthetic. Which isn't to say that Corgan is treading old ground; on the contrary, there is something fresh and inspired about the songs on Oceania. Admittedly, kicking the album off with the heavy psychedelic acid rock groove of "Quasar" -- in which Corgan croons several EST-era-style affirmations including, "God right on! Krishna right on! Mark right on!" -- is a move that almost begs comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins' euphoria-inducing 1991 single "Siva." A similar sentiment comes to mind with the latter album rocker "The Chimera," a classic rock-sounding groover that sparkles with crisscross laser-beam guitar lines recalling the jewel-toned guitar heroics of Queen's Brian May. But these are welcome comparisons, born out of Corgan finally delivering a gorgeous and cohesive set of songs that balance some his more arch, cerebral inclinations with his generously romantic and sweepingly cinematic gift for revelatory guitar rock. Elsewhere, we get the soaring "Panopticon" and the minor-key, prog rock-inflected drama of "Violet Rays." However, Oceania is perhaps best represented by the euphoric mid-album ballad "Pinwheels." Starting with a repeated keyboard line and building to swells of acoustic and electric guitar before settling into one of the most swoon-worthy melodic anthems Corgan has ever written, "Pinwheels," much like the rest of Oceania, is a masterpiece of pop songcraft and rock production. As Corgan croons on the song's chorus, "Sister soul, lovers of the tune, sing!/I got you/I got you." On Oceania, the Smashing Pumpkins definitely have us. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
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