Thursday, December 06, 2012

Album Review: Oceania

Title:  Oceania (Official, Amazon, iTunes, Insound, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  The Smashing Pumpkins (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, YouTube, SoundCloud, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t even know or really care that The Smashing Pumpkins had released a new record this year.  Then I read the review of Oceania on NineBullets.net and decided to give it a listen.  Before getting into the new record, I should probably explain a bit about my thoughts and feelings on The Smashing Pumpkins. 

I first heard The Smashing Pumpkins when their video for “Siva” debuted on 120 Minutes.  The song blew me away and two years later “Cherub Rock” also blew me away and Siamese Dream was one of my favorite records of 1993.  In fact the Pumpkins first three releases—Gish, Lull, and Siamese Dream—were/are all brilliant.  Those records had a passion and an energy and one of the best lineups in rock ‘n’ roll (in a lot of ways they were the Fleetwood Mac of the 1990’s).  I got to see the Pumpkins on the Siamese Dream tour and they put on a hell of a show (including a rousing cover of “Go Your Own Way” with Tyson Meade of the Chainsaw Kittens joining them on stage).  Then in 1995 the band released Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  I was not at all impressed with the lead single “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and never bothered getting the record.  In fact, each subsequent single I liked less and less and decided to just completely avoid the album like the plague.  At that point I stopped following the band all together. 

This now brings us to their latest release Oceania.  The record opens with the very “Siva”-esque “Quasar”—a classic Pumpkins rocker—and from there the album goings through the emotional and volume highs and lows and tremendous musicianship that made the band’s early work so incredibly good.  Now this isn’t to say that Oceania sounds like a copy of their early work; it’s more a return to form, similar to Bob Mould’s Silver Age.  In a lot of ways, this record sounds like a band that decided to stop trying to impress people and win back lost fans and decided to just go back to the drawing board and put together an album that lacks pretense and shows signs of maturity and humility.  This is the kind of record that made The Smashing Pumpkins such a great band in the early years and is hopefully an example of more great things to come in the future. 

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