When tackling an album by a band as monumental and unapologetic as The Smashing Pumpkins, it’s important to note that regardless of potential hate and in spite of negative reviews, they refuse to cease to create, and they continue to thrive. Publications such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork have absolutely blasted their new album Cyr, but fans in the YouTube comment sections and on the band’s Instagram page are overflowing with praise and excitement.
There’s a reason The Smashing Pumpkins classics like “1979” and “Disarm” find themselves on Los Angeles’ KROQ every time you turn on the radio – the band has cemented themselves into music history as being one of the bands that eternalized the 90’s alternative rock scene. However, in comparison to the strength of their past work, their newest album comes as something of a disappointment in more ways than one.
The album wasn’t all bad, and that’s all thanks to one thing – percussion. If you’re able to take yourself out of the trance that the overbearing synthesizer elements have forced upon its listeners, then it’s undeniable that the percussion in just about every one of the songs on this album is enjoyable. The beats are inarguably the savior of this album.
Another admirable (and potentially undiscovered) quality about the album is the nod to the band’s hit “Disarm” that can be heard in the first 30 seconds of the album’s song “Birch Grove.” It’s like the band has maintained a specific keynote throughout the entirety of their musical career, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and that familiarity triggers instant joy among their admirers.
Regardless of its few good qualities, it’s without a doubt that the overbearing synthesizer is what ultimately sentenced this album to solid mediocracy. There are a lot of elements from 80’s hits that have snuck into the modern music making scene and thrived – synthesizers, however, are not at the top of that list. The use of technologic sounding elements can be a welcomed addition to a song if applied sparingly. Whether it be a bass-line or too much computer input, though, having something consistently at the forefront of all areas on an album ends up making it hard to differentiate the songs from each other. If you’ve heard one song on this album, you’ve pretty much heard them all.
It’s unrealistic and selfish to expect a band to remain stagnant and produce only one style of music throughout their career – that being said, it’s fair to say that The Smashing Pumpkins indeed decided to move in a direction that’s different from their usual fan-favorite sounds. Whereas some may see this as growth, most will acknowledge it for what it really is – an unnecessary attempt to stay relevant.
Overall, the album can be accurately described as an “acquired taste.” The opening measures of “Purple Blood” are cinematic and the consistency of the album’s sound is painfully evident.