Sunday, June 24, 2012

Music: Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

 Siamese Dream will always remind me first of myself at 16, sitting, actually more lying, on the couch in our living room in Sassenage, France, and listening to the whole album full blast and wishing I could make music like that. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness will always bring me back to myself at 17, working in a supermarket in England just after , and wishing I were back home in France. It’s funny because for the first year I only really listened to the first CD, and then slowly got to love the second one too, when I finally gave it more time. Adore reminds me of going to Lyon from Grenoble on a day trip with my friend Daphne and buying the album on the day of its French release there, just because I had to have it as soon as it came out. Gish and Siamese Dream are confusion and revelation; Mellon Collie is anger and love and Adore is change and some kind of twisted hope. And then… Nothing. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever listened to Machina/The Machines of God. I certainly didn’t rush out to buy it when it was released, and I remember promising a friend at university I would give it a try, but I never did. This doesn’t mean I stopped listening to the Smashing Pumpkins, just that in my mind they had already broken up. It's just that the Pumpkins are completely nostalgia music for me. And then they came back again, released Zeitgeist, which isn’t a bad album to be honest, and I finally got to see them live, with my sister in Atlantic City in 2008 (I think?!). The show was amazing, even if only 2 of the original members were still in the band.

In the same way that Courtney Love just irritates me nowadays, Billy Corgan makes me want to sigh in exasperation. The guy’s ego is larger than life and he just never seems to know when to shut up. I’m not interested in hearing his jabs at other musicians and music (Radiohead? Really? What have Radiohead ever done to merit Billy Corgan’s loathing?). I listened to Zeitgeist quite a few times in 2008, but to be honest, I don’t know any of the songs off by heart, not like I do with the first 4 albums. So when I heard that the Pumpkins were reforming once again (with only Billy from the original line-up remaining), I kind of just smirked and then forgot about it. That said, while I was waiting to board my flight to California last week I was reading through some blogs I follow on a regular basis, and came across this very positive review of a recent SP show on Fucking Nostalgic. The first sentence of the review caught my attention (especially coming from someone who has never hidden his dislike for Billy Corgan), and made me actually want to listen to the new album, Oceania, to see if it really was all that.

It is. It all fits together perfectly – in essence a matured version of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie if they had been released as one album. All about love, love lost, nature, divinity and higher powers. A release of some sort, soaring music that picks up and goes on and on, clashing, jarring guitars, flowing back together to create melody from noise. The signature Pumpkins sound is definitely still there (even without hearing Corgan’s voice you know right away that it’s them), but there is something else I can’t completely put my finger on just yet. Maybe it’s just that Corgan has finally found a line-up that works for him, and he’s actually letting them bring their own sounds to his own. In any case, that’s what it sounds like, and I wouldn’t want to analyse Billy Corgan’s thought process too much to find out the real reason. Despite everything I think about him, he still is super talented. He was a big part of the success of Hole’s Celebrity Skin album (which I still love, however polished it may happen to be), and however big his ego seems to have grown over the past decade, he has still managed to release an excellent album that I will probably be listening to all summer. It’s OK, you can still despise the artist and love what he/she produces. I just wish he would let his music speak for itself instead of opening his gob to talk bullshit about other very talented musicians that he was probably inspired by at some point.

You can listen to Oceania for yourself on Spotify HERE. Enjoy.


Damien said...

Very cool review! Glad my FN review had a role in you checking it out, they've done some really exciting stuff there.

Paradox said...