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

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.