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Smashing Pumpkins
Oceania Jeremy Allen , July 5th, 2012 08:18

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For any Smashing Pumpkins enthusiasts not alive or still suckling on their mother's teat during the 90s, now is not a bad time to be a fan. Having re-released Gish and Siamese Dream late last year, the group will also be reissuing Pisces Iscariot later this month in a corybantic campaign that offers no apologies. Part of the justification for this frenzy must lie in the fact that Oceania isn't crap. In fact, it's hardly crap at all, aside from the turgidly predictable, Levellers-lite 'The Celestials' and the opening phase of 'Pinwheels'. That resembles Big Country doing a John Hughes soundtrack.

The cover art too, with it's cyan tower erect among spindly, leafless trees could put one off picking it up, as could song titles like 'Quasar', 'Pale Horse' and 'Glissandra' which might allude to the idea that all you're likely to hear is whales bleating over the tinkly flourishes of an electric harpsicle. The promotional photos of the band too suggested that this wasn't the Smashing Pumpkins at all, but in fact a dome-headed, Blackpool-based magician stood with three precocious stage school children being paid to make him look 'down with the kids'.

A project carried by Billy Corgan's charisma alone might leave the listener wanting, though it's with considerable delight that one can report his talent for writing tunes has returned to the fold like a very naughty and much-loved prodigal son.

Bombastic openers 'Quasar' and 'Panopticon' are similar enough to band together, though the latter takes on a beat off-kilter enough to make one sit up and take notice before we settle into its unsettling groove and admire the confident delivery. It's a bravura brace, and one is instantly aware Billy means business and there'll be no more Mr. Nice Guy (okay, there never was any Mr. Nice Guy, but you get the picture). Billy's threat that he'll "kiss anyone tonight" on 'Violet Rays' isn't enough to detract from a well-constructed composition, while 'My Love Is Winter' lilts and swoops and gets more enjoyable with each playback. 'One Diamond, One Heart' is even more so; in fact the chorus is rather beautiful. The title track offers an ambitious and expansive soundscape that breaks delightfully into simple, chiming xylophone tinkles before building again into one of Jean Michel Jarre's dreams starring Eric Cartman.

'Pale Horse' is fine if suspiciously reminiscent of something from Invisible Touch by Genesis, while 'The Chimera' is Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins as imagined by The Darkness. It's a strange album on the whole, though there's no doubting Corgan has his mojo back, and if you can stomach a 45-year-old man still whining on about isolation and stuff then this may well be up your proverbial alley. Speaking of Siamese Dream, if that was the Smashing Pumpkins' masterpiece then Oceania, perhaps surprisingly, is fit to tie its shoelaces.

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Princess Stomper
Jul 5, 2012 12:49pm

Beautiful, beautiful writing ...

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Jul 5, 2012 2:32pm

pinwheels is the best track on the record because it totally destroys most people's perspective of what billy is capable of. it's also the most emotionally driven. big country definitely couldn't pull that off.

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Jul 5, 2012 3:48pm

Great review.The end solo on 'Oceania'that is supposed to be culmination of the song seems weird,like it's off tune or something,just doesn't work.Aside from that and some of the lyrics,it's actually good album.Almost erases bad taste of Zeitgeist.

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Jul 6, 2012 1:53am

What's wrong with 'a 45-year-old man still whining on about isolation'?

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Jul 6, 2012 4:21pm

I agree with Wozza. Can imagine what J Allen was trying to say, but 'isolation' is a poor example to use.

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Jul 27, 2012 8:28am

Jean Michel Jarre's dreams starring Eric Cartman... brilliant. I used to be a fan around 93-97 and will give this a listen.

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Kyle Alan Hale
Jul 28, 2012 5:04pm

What happened to avoiding "snarky one-upmanship"? This article is way more about name-dropping than music. Disgusting. If anyone coming here would like an essay that actually considers the value of the music and doesn't take the album out of context, I've written one:

Of course, I realize that I'm inviting criticism on my own writing now. Critique away. That's what writing is all about, right?

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Al L
Mar 20, 2013 9:41pm

In reply to rollo:

That solo shows the conviction of Billy's genius. It should of gone on for another 5 mins.

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