Smashing Pumpkins

Zeitgeist
(Martha’s Music/Reprise)

Those of you hoping Smashing Pumpkins' comeback record is an unmitigated disaster will be disappointed: It's not. Those of you afraid that head Pumpkin Billy Corgan made another The Future Embrace (his über-synthpop, somewhat cheesy solo album) will be happy: He didn't. With drummer Jimmy Chamberlin the lone member of the classic Pumpkins lineup remaining — a good move, as his influence keeps Zeitgeist reined-in and focused — Corgan embraces the quintessential hit-making calculus that brought him critical respect and rabid fandom in the early 1990s. Distortion, noise, heavily layered vocals, and quiet-to-loud dynamics permeate the first half of Zeitgeist, only letting up briefly for one extended period of instrumental wankery — "United States," a song that ends up functioning as a transition into the second half of the album, which contains keyboard-heavy (and poppier) songs. Highlights include "That's the Way (My Love Is)," on which sheets of melodic guitar heavily influenced by wistful shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine dominate; the ghostly synthesizers (very Scary Monsters-era Bowie) and cloudy drones of "For God and Country"; and "Doomsday Clock," on which guitars scream in like a bottle-rocket and distort almost immediately. Sure, there are a few weak tunes that sound like Smashing Pumpkins karaoke, and Zeitgeist's tricks aren't quite as revolutionary today as they were when SP debuted — much like how other grunge-era bands sound far less dangerous today than they did in 1993. But fans of a certain age (mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings) who were inundated with Pumpkins music in high school and college will find Zeitgeist familiar, if not nostalgic. It'll be more interesting to see how a generation of kids weaned on bands influenced by the Pumpkins — especially Muse, Silversun Pickups and My Chemical Romance — respond to Corgan's distorto-pomp and circumstance.

 
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