Other Voices 002

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Pumpkins have always been an acquired taste. They were a Nineties band that weren’t necessarily a Nineties band. Their unique brand of Goth influenced, over-produced stadium rock stood apart from the successes of the rest of the grungy garage bands of the day. Oceania is no different in that regard. If you’re still a Pumpkins fan in your Thirties, then this album is for you; but if Billy Corgan still thinks he is reaching the youth of today with this music, he’s wrong. 

Oceania is an inch away from being a prog rock album. The overuse of synthesizer hooks is dangerously close to being adult contemporary; far from the growling danger of the Pisces Iscariot days. For all of the Eighties and Nineties influence in current music it would be easy, for the Pumpkins (and let's get something straight, this is Billy Corgan and three extremely regular looking new people who we'll never know the names of) to jump on the Nineties revitalization bandwagon since they (Billy Corgan) were there first time around. The problem is, this record misses any sort dangerous or youthful burst and Corgan’s attempts to be current by harnessing the past fail to meet the mark.

Some might call that criticism harsh and, to be fair, Oceania is the best thing Corgan has done since Adore; Oceania is a well-built record with a complete feel to it and it is atmospheric in all the right places and ways, even if it doesn't have a clear single on it. Most of the lyrics are pretty cheesy but then they always were – Corgan was always a sappy poet; his masterful guitar tone always did the legitimate talking.It's fine enough to say that, but it's still not always easy to hear; Corgan is speaking to a young and fashionably depressed audience that he used to have, and that gets a little tiresome now because the angle has been played. If you took a shot every time Corgan said “love” or “dreams” listening to this record you’d have alcohol poisoning by the halfway point. 

Always skilled at opening an album, “Quasar” kicks in epically, heavy including a layer of psychedelic and a possible unconscious Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” rip-off. The vibe of the rich guitar tone continues into track two “Panopticon,” the second in a series of made up song names you’ll mispronounce forever. In typical form, the third song (“The Celestials”) is lighter and brings the listener down with an acoustic guitar and string crescendo. From then on it’s a mix of Corgan’s signature songwriting and tone mixed with Seventies classic rock riffs.  Synth heavy “One Diamond, One Heart” falls short as a sickeningly sweet ballad to a best friend. Synths are momentarily trendy but you have to pick your battles and this sounds like the sound track to Flight Of The Navigator. This continues on to “Pinwheels,” a song that takes two and half minutes of keyboards for Corgan to begin singing “Mother, mistress of the Sun, say, I got you, I got you.” The Pumpkins were always a bit flowery but they used to write with a clenched fist as well. 

Never afraid to throw an incredibly long song onto a record, the title track – with its four or so parts crammed into nine minutes – almost ends up being a concept album on its own. 

Oceania is what anyone would expect Corgan to write. He was once one of the most influential and innovative rock musicians in the world, but the world outgrew him and he remained the same. The record has some great moments but even after full digestion only a few moments of it will cause you to return. Still living in a bubble, Corgan believes anything he writes will resonate with a diverse audience. The reality is it’s only his true believers who are still listening.

Further Reading:
Smashing Pumpkins –
Oceania[CD Review]


is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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