Let’s not kid ourselves: the Smashing Pumpkins were a musical collective led solely by mastermind Billy Corgan. So replacing long-time members James Iha and D’Arcy Wretzky this time around is easily done without tainting the band’s name. The music does that on its own. But let’s back track a little bit.
Seven years ago, Corgan disbanded the Pumpkins because of declining album sales, which he lamely claimed was due to the “Britneys of the world.” Following the group’s end, Corgan went on to form and quickly quit the indie super group Zwan and then subsequently released a downbeat electronic solo debut, TheFutureEmbrace. Both were met with favorable reviews but lagged in sales. So it’s 2007 and not much has changed in mainstream music: the charts are still dominated by talentless hacks and one-hit wonders.
So what makes Corgan think he can regain his throne as rock superstar? The Pumpkins’ sixth release Zeitgeist attempts to reclaim the grandeur of the band’s recorded past but fails on all levels. Corgan’s biggest mistake is being loud for the sake of being loud, filling the record with droning guitar solos and layers upon layers of dated rock riffs. Perfect examples of this are the nine-minute “United States” and first single “Doomsday Clock” which are purely (as musicians say) lessons in masturbation. Even the pop tracks fall limp as his Corgan’s melodies stagger underneath duelling guitars. For an artist who once balanced heavy tracks with beautiful, sentimental ballads, the production comes across as a sad attempt to stay relevant. However, lyrically, Zeitgeist is up to date and politically charged, but sadly offers no real punch, as Corgan sounds lifeless and disinterested singing them. As always, one thing the Pumpkins’ has going for it, is Jimmy Chamberlin’s intense and pounding drum work.
In the end, fans will get a sense of nostalgia listening to Zeitgeist but they’ll surely end up prowling through their collection to relisten to their spirited 1993 masterpiece Siamese Dream. No doubt that when this album fails, Corgan will ready another solo record, a book of poetry or some other band to replace the broken dream that was the Smashing Pumpkins. (Reprise/WEA)