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.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.