Album Review

Oceania

Oceania

by The Smashing Pumpkins


EMI
7 / 10
17th September 2012

Reviewed by Matthew Cattin


An oscillating phaser riff beams in from the left, answered from the right by a mirrored bassline. The snare ignites, flaring into a pounding display as the guitar layers begin to stack up, Billy Corgan’s distinctive overdrive leading the battle cry. The intro to Oceania’s opening track ‘Quasar’ is bold, heavy, inspiring, and two decades on, it echoes ‘Cherub Rock’ uncannily. Oceania is The Smashing Pumpkins strongest album since Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, proving that Corgan’s band isn’t dead yet - merely reincarnated.

Despite ‘Quasar’ echoing older Pumpkins’ work a little too closely, its heavy ferocity impresses - particularly Mike Byrne’s tireless beating of the drums. Jimmy Chamberlin left large shoes to fill but it’s quickly apparent Byrne’s toes fit snugly at the end, pounding the tom-toms and shifting rhythms effortlessly. The rolling drums of ‘Panopticon’ begin before the dust of ‘Quasar’ settles. Treated as a lead instrument, the rest of the mix is forced into the back seat. With soaring optimism, Corgan sings “there’s a sun that shines in,” as buoyant chords glimmer around Nicole Fiorentino’s bass - it’s Smashing Pumpkins back at their best.

First single ‘The Celestials’ slows the pace and intensity for a short while, keeping things intimate with synth strings and acoustic guitar. Before you can draw breath however, Byrne’s drums sink the song to murky depths and dirty distortion darkens the synth; a power ballad is born. The tune is distinctly Corgan and could easily be a B-side plucked from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Oceania is of course a 13-song installment from the sprawling 44-song colossus Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. As a standalone album however, it succeeds in its cohesiveness, its attitude and its volume. Corgan’s voice has lost some of its aggressive edge but since he is approaching 50, all is forgiven. Another omission is the sometimes unnecessary and often pompous guitar solo so typical of Pumpkins records. Refreshingly replacing the standard solo break is twin background riffs with guitarist Jeff Schroeder. Corgan’s refusal to let go of The Smashing Pumpkins, despite the lack of input from any original members, means Oceania isn’t ground breaking in its originality. But with Corgan (and band’s) best record in a decade, I don’t foresee many complaints.




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