Oceania – what a grand name for the new album from THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. Lead track, ‘Quasar’, shouts hello with big drums and big guitar – BIG sound! Rock borders on metal, held together by the alternate vocals of Billy Corgan, a god of the Nineties reminding us that gods don’t die.
I don’t imply that Billy was ever gone but it’s been a confusing period of disappearing band members, a band called Zwan and a string of wonderfully free singles that are part of a yet to be fully defined collective called Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. The latter deserves special mention. Although it never got promoted, songs such as ‘Widow Make My Mind’ and ‘Freak’ were a return to form. And ‘Song for a Son’ was one of the greatest creations claimed by THE SMASHING PUMPKINS moniker. Indeed, Billy may be diverting from his original intentions but has said that Oceania is “an album within an album.”
Enter 60 minutes of music whose lyrics are often indecipherable yet whose sound blazes as enigmatic as half of the song titles are. ‘Panopticon’ maintains ‘Quasar’s’ momentum but these openers are the loudest it gets. Nevertheless, i’m happy to take my balls out of the wall for the album’s slower moments. ‘One Diamond, One Heart’ feels too pop, too Coldplay but that same notion works well in the spacious ‘Pinwheels’. The backing female vocals work well in the latter. The title track lives up to its name. It may fall short of epic but it’s a 9 minute journey worth taking. ‘The Celestials’ lyrics of “until the end” ride a swell of melody that waves into climax. It’s one of my favourites.
There’s no ‘Bullet With a Butterfly’s Wings’ or ‘Landslide’ here (and there are some fillers) but Oceania, as a whole, is fluid like the tides. It may disappear with global musical warming but it’s well worth exploring now.