If there ever was a case of ‘band as brand’, then Smashing Pumpkins is the perfect example. When Billy Corgan released a solo LP in 2005, it tanked. Reform the Pumpkins, however, and his albums are greeted with considerable fanfare. Since 2007’s Zeitgeist – blighted by overproduction and lyrical turmoil – Corgan has still had to fight off people questioning his abilities now D’Arcy, Iha and Chamberlin have long gone. But with Oceania, for the first time, Pumpkins sound like a cohesive unit.
Opener ‘Quasar’ has piledriving riffs aplenty, many of them sailing close to ‘Cherub Rock’. Nostalgia is a seductive liar, and there are echoes of the greatness Corgan can achieve throughout Oceania; but only echoes rather than substance. ‘The Celestials’ has a downbeat mood akin to ‘Disarm’, whilst ‘My Love is Winter’ reaches ‘Tonight, Tonight’-style grandeur. But the spirit that channelled the originals is only sparse here.
The best thing about the record is Corgan’s ambition. Throughout it all, he aims big. And for the most part, he delivers. ‘Panopticon’ is soaring and heroic, whilst ‘Pale Horse’ contains some of Corgan’s most naked lyrics over a melody that’s rich and beautiful. The best moment is ‘Pinwheels’, which builds from a subtle keyboard line into a euphoric, swooning anthem.
Oceaniais diverse, challenging and hugely enjoyable, and no doubt the best album they’ve done since Perfect. It’s not a classic, but, when it comes to art and commerce, arenas and dives, Corgan straddles the line well, band or brand.
About Samuel Lambeth
Listening to music is my favourite pastime, and I enjoy listening to new, up and coming releases as well as classic records. My favourite bands are varied and long but include Ocean Colour Scene, Vampire Weekend, The Beatles, R.E.M., The Bluetones, Buffalo Tom, to new bands such as Yuck, Surfer Blood, Brother and The Vaccines.