Smashing Pumpkins return fails to live up to band's legacy
After years of rumors and speculation, one of the most successful acts of the 1990s, the Smashing Pumpkins, finally reunited in early 2018 for a North American tour that many hoped would lead to a new album.
As the year went on, the Pumpkins released three new tracks under the production of Rick Rubin. In addition to the three singles, the new Smashing Pumpkins album, SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT VOL. 1 / LP: NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN., is a return to form for the band as well as its struggle in finding a place in today’s mainstream.
The album opens up with “Knights of Malta,” which foreshadows what to expect from the album — overproduction and Billy Corgan’s underwhelming lyrics.
The song itself is extremely repetitive with its chorus, which has Corgan’s voice go through an unnecessary effect, causing the song to be unbearable at times.
“Knights of Malta” tries to be ambitious with its string arrangements, but the only result is an extremely bland sound. This is one of the few issues that unfortunately carries through the first few tracks as well. As an opener for the band’s comeback album, the songs lack in substance.
However, it’s clear that after all these years, Corgan, James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin still have a unique musical camaraderie that translates well into the studio. One of SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT’s saving graces is its song instrumentation, a reminder of what made the band such a tight rock sound in the 1990s.
Chamberlin’s creative drum work along with Iha’s complementary guitar parts allow for song structures that longtime fans will be familiar with. Even without original bassist D’arcy Wretzky, the band is still able to function as a cohesive whole.
One of the album’s faults is in Rubin’s work, as he often overproduces the band to the point where the music sounds bland. Tracks like “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” suffer from sounding like every other rock song that has been released in the last 20 years.
Corgan’s lyrics don’t help the songs either. As a songwriter, Corgan has always been known for being extremely personal with his lyrics, and, as a result, fans have been able to connect through his lyrics to the music. In this new album, Corgan’s lyrics are extremely vague, at times extremely random and even meaningless.
What the album lacks lyrically, it makes up for in catchy hooks. Corgan is still able to create catchy vocal melodies that evoke emotions for those listening. Additionally, he is able to use his unique voice to full effect on songs like “Solara” and “Alienation,” which showcase his diverse range of singing from loud, heavy shouting to soft, sympathetic melodies.
Along with the unique guitar work that effectively goes over the rhythm section made up of Iha and Chamberlin, fans are reminded that the Pumpkins are able to make songs that are enjoyable.
The album features an extremely rocky start, and the aforementioned problems are at their worst in the album's first three tracks.
Many would most likely dismiss the album after “Travels,” but fans who stick around are treated to an enjoyable listening experience of some endearing tunes that bring about a nostalgic feeling.
Tracks like “With Sympathy” are able to demonstrate that Corgan is at his best when singing from the heart. It’s an endearing tune that makes the album worth listening up to that point. The album ends on a strong note with “Seek and You Shall Destroy.”
Clocking in at roughly half an hour, the Pumpkins deliver an album that fans will enjoy as a novelty, but nothing more.
Corgan was able to learn from his past mistakes as a singer-songwriter and use his bandmates to their full advantage on SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, but that doesn’t seem to outweigh many of the problems the project faces as a whole.
The Pumpkins have had a huge impact on the alternative rock genre, influencing bands that became extremely successful in the 2000s, but the band fails to expand its sound to new heights on this album.
With reports of SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT Vol. 2 to be released sometime in 2019, it’s hard to see the Smashing Pumpkins staying relevant in the near future.