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Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist

Smashing Pumpkins, Zeitgeist

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE comeback album from Smashing Pumpkins was always going to be a hard task given the fact that only half of the original band members have returned for this reunion of sorts.

Frontman Billy Corgan’s presence ensures that the vocals are as distinct, even haunted, as ever but the lack of either bassists D’Arcy Wretzky or Melissa Auf Der Maur and – most crucially – guitarist James Iha was always going to find them coming up short.

Fortunately, the new-look Pumpkins have largely overcome such pitfalls to record a storming return that’s built around crunching guitars and hard-hitting alt-rock.

Occasionally, Zeitgeist feels more like a Zwan album – but no matter which way you look at it, there is something definitely exciting about hearing new material from one of the most important bands of the modern alternative rock era – the people behind such seminal cuts as 1979, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Tonight and Today.

Nothing on Zeitgeist quite matches the magnificence of any of those tracks but modern rock enthusiasts shouldn’t complain too hard.

Opening blast Doomsday Clock is an amped up frenzy of guitars and Corgan wails that’s followed by the equally pumped 7 Shades Of Black. And then there’s the foreboding grunge of slow-builder Bleeding The Orchid.

All are excellent tracks, especially if you’re a fan of the K-ROQ inspired alt-rock heaviness. But just when you’re likely to start anticipating a classic album, things tend to get stuck in the same formula.

Corgan seems to have put the album’s emphasis on loud, stadium-filling songs rather than tapping into the rich diversity of their back catalogue.

Hence, tracks like Tarantula, Starz and United States bang, crash and wallop their way into aggressive diatribes against everything that Corgan considers to be shallow and wrong in today’s culture – United States, in particular, finds him very angry and issuing a rallying call for “revolution”, whilst pondering “what will they do to me?”

Taken in the right mood, they’re gutsy and thrilling, especially in some of the guitar-based intros (Tarantula, in particular, sends you giddy at the prospect of a mosh-pit frenzy).

But as enjoyable as such moments are, the album still leaves you wanting more. Not risks, per se, but diversity.

We almost get it on more upbeat rockers such as the rousing That’s The Way (My Love Is) and the mellow, electronic Neverlost – one of the firm highlights, which recalls the Pumpkins at their very best.

For God And Country is another that blends the keyboards and guitars to more pleasing effect.

The overall result, therefore, is one of happiness tinged with regret. In many ways, this is everything fans could have hoped for and more (in light of the absentees), but it’s also a long way from the classic they’re capable of.

But maybe we’re just harder on the ones we love…

Download picks: That’s The Way (My Love Is), God And Country, Neverlost, Doomsday Clock, Tarantula, 7 Shades of Black

Track listing:

  1. Doomsday Clock
  2. 7 Shades Of Black
  3. Bleeding The Orchid
  4. That’s The Way (My Love Is)
  5. Tarantula
  6. Starz
  7. United States
  8. Neverlost
  9. Bring The Light
  10. (Come On) Let’s Go!
  11. For God And Country
  12. Pomp And Circumstances