If not for the mass appeal of emotional exhibitionism, Billy Corgan would have been an acquired taste. Think about it: those vaporous guitar tones, the over-the-top Victoriana, and, of course, that whine, uniquely irksome in pop history. It wasn't until Zwan -- his 2003 attempt at banddom, now regularly and perversely referenced as a "failure" -- that the shtick was drawn away. That band's disregard for the edginess and ego of Smashing Pumpkins revealed Corgan's openness and melodicism. But if Zwan was Corgan flying a kite, then on TheFutureEmbrace, he's zoning out at his laptop. Its digitized arrangements are so airless that, for once, A Flock of Seagulls is an apt comparison, not just a joke. Corgan's versatile fretwork is indecipherable from the synth flutters and drum machines. The melodies are in place, and they do manage to strain through, notably in the crystalline opener, "All Things Change," and the album's boldest romantic stroke, "I'm Ready." But with the stiffness of this new posture, there's an acrid new flavor to get used to.
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