Meridian Star

Meridian 360

June 17, 2012

'Oceania' stands on its own among Pumpkins' best

MERIDIAN —     Following the 2000 breakup of The Smashing Pumpkins, frontman Billy Corgan has seemingly struggled to find his place in the evolving music industry and recapture the relevance he enjoyed in the mid-nineties, when The Pumpkins were one of the most recognizable bands in rock.

    Corgan quickly formed the the short-lived group, Zwan, wrote a poetry book, and recorded a solo album before officially "renewing and reviving" The Smashing Pumpkins in 2007. After the disappointing release of their comeback album, 2007's "Zeitgeist," the group went through a series of lineup changes, most notably the departure of Corgan's longtime friend and drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin.

    Recently, The Pumpkins have existed solely through the occasional free-for-download tracks released on the band's official website as a part of Corgan's ambitious 44-song epic project known as "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope." As a result of this project, The Pumpkins are returning to the shelves for the first time in five years with the release of "Oceania," a 13-track "album within an album" that features the band's best work in 12 years.

    "Oceania" is full of the classic sound that brought the Chicago-based band to prominence in 1994. Layers of distortion blended with trance-inducing synths and Corgan's trademark, nasally vocals rule the day on "Oceania." Rather than simply retread old material, the band noticeably progresses their sound and ventures into territories previously unheard by even the most seasoned of fans. The third track, "The Celestials," recalls the best material of the band's back-catalogue, while simultaneously offering a strong and prominent bass-line, previously unheard on a Pumpkins album, played by Nicole Fiorentino. Fiorentino makes her recording debut with The Pumpkins on "Oceania," taking on bass duties as well as providing resoundingly clear and crisp backing vocals on numerous tracks, including a memorable harmony with Corgan on "Pinwheels."

    This album can be hailed as a return to form for The Pumpkins, or more specifically, for Billy Corgan, who has always served as the chief creative force behind the band. Yet for the first time in the band's history, the listener is able to hear the influence of the rest of the band. Corgan is actually working with them rather simply directing, and the difference is noticeable and refreshing.

    Jeff Schroeder, rhythm guitarist since the 2007 return, brings a noted style and substance to his versatile playing that seemingly motivates Corgan to up his game as lead guitarist. The numerous guitar solos present on "Oceania" harken back to the work on "Siamese Dream," the band's break-through album.

    Mike Byrne, the newest and youngest addition to the band at only 22-years-old, steps into the enormously hard-to-fill role of Jimmy Chamberlin and, rather than pale in comparison, shines on his own. The drumming on "Violet Rays," helps elevate the song to a modern-day Smashing Pumpkins classic. Along with "My Love is Winter" and the album's 10-minute title-track, "Oceania" has everything it needs to stand on its own amongst the best work of The Pumpkins' past.

    "Oceania" can be found in a free streaming format on iTunes. The album officially hits stores on June 19.

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