Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania
Five years after front man and only remaining original member Billy Corgan announced his nineties platinum selling alt-rock supergroup would no longer record albums, the Smashing Pumpkins have released their latest album, the 13 track Oceania.
No-one who grew up even vaguely familiar with pop music in the nineties can deny the prominent position the Smashing Pumpkins held during their heyday. It seemed no single could go unaired on either television or radio, their albums peaked out the Billboard, remaining for inordinate periods, and they headlined the festival circuits. In addition to this, they were never very long for the headlines, as the group was hallmarked by all the tragedies of a Shakespearian play or Telemundo soap-opera. Massive success contradicted against petty infighting, tyrannical rule, the death and overdose of various members, and the ever widening gap between Mr. Corgan’s creativity and anything that could be considered normal.
One thing fans understood that the casually listener never would was that the Smashing Pumpkins were always a band set apart. Where-as the majority of West Coast groups compromising the ‘alternative,’ scene were punk influenced, the Pumpkins were a mid-west metal act. Though lumped into a burgeoning genre that may have contributed to their success, it never encompassed the Pumpkin’s sound or agenda.
Music historians should take note: the parallels between the rise and the fall of the Alternative genre eerily coincide with the career progression of the Pumpkins. Their first album Gish was popular with the college crowd that mistrusted corporate media in ’89. Siamese Dream found commercial success along with the genre in ’93, and at the height of Alt’s prominence in ’95 the ambitious and beautiful Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double-album was about all you heard on the radio. They were good times for the group, but they wouldn’t last. The Smashing Pumpkins expired along with the decade and genre in 1999.
Despite several splits and threats to never again revive the act, Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins are a bit like gay cowboys in that they just can’t quit each other. Then again, maybe the two shouldn’t be viewed as separate entities, as Oceania’s lineup reveals Billy Corgan is the Smashing Pumpkins with a revolving door of back up musicians. It’s long been known Mr. Corgan purposely chose his lineup as a counter-measure to the old four piece white dude rock group, and surprisingly for this offering, we find (vaguely Asian) guitarist J. Schroeder, (female) bassist Nicole Fiorentine, and young (very clean cut Caucasian) Mike Byrne on drums.
Still, die-hard fans and the casual consumer alike will enjoy Oceania. Mr. Corgan has foregone the contrivances and mono-emotive expressions of late era Pumpkin’s albums to forge a dynamic and entertaining listen, while paying homage on some tracks, (especially the lead “Quasar”) to earlier, more vibrant times in the group’s discog.
Could this be a new era for the Smashing Pumpkins? Perhaps the line-up influx has had a positive influence on Mr. Corgan’s outlook. In addition to the return to a more carefree and less emotionally draining sound, the group has given fans the liberty to download Oceania before its release on its website where Mr. Corgan take pains to explain the new faces have had their hand in on the creative aspects of this album.
Again, Mr. Corgan is attempting a grandiose concept with Oceania. It is both a record within a record and the first installation in a three part series called Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. However, as opposed to past blunders and over-zealous, obscured ambition, Oceania doesn’t require nausea inducing attention. It’s meant to be enjoyed, which is a factor overlooked on past Pumpkins projects, that just may attract a new audience while giving fans, some of the most devoted in modern rock, a little slice of the glory days.
MP3: Smashing Pumpkins “The Chimera”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl
Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania