Review: The Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins

Album: Oceania

Axl Rose and Billy Corgan have a few things in common: both are known for being on the egotistical side, and both have reformed their respective bands with entirely new faces.  That’s where the similarities end, but I do so love taking a shot at Axl whenever possible.

2007 is the last year that we had a proper album from the band — which at that point still featured founding member Jimmy Chamberlin on drums – and I am relieved to say that things have markedly improved.  2007’s Zeitgeist was not the Pumpkins album that anyone wanted; it featured only shoddy songwriting and awful production.  Oceania is a huge step forward in both regards, and serves as a stopgap in the massive 44 song project (and ridiculously named) Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.  Thankfully the songs on Oceania are all better than the free morsels of Kaleidyscope that Corgan has been releasing on the Internet, and so I can state with a clear conscious that Oceania is the best Smashing Pumpkins collection of songs in over a decade.

Corgan’s influences are all over this album; classic, progressive, psychedelic rock are all present.  Oceania floats and swirls where it needs to – check out the mostly acoustic and synth-laden “Pinwheels” for a perfect example – but its bite is lacking; opener “Quasar” could have been a classic Pumpkins ripper, but over the course of almost five minutes it seems to build to something that never appears that all of its guitar solos cannot even muster.  The following song, “Pinwheels,” suffers from a similar problem.  It’s obvious that Corgan has attempted to up the epic-ness of his writing, both musically and lyrically, — “God, ride on!” can be heard in the aforementioned “Quasar” — but the pieces don’t fit together like they should.

Oceania is finds success in its simpler moments, and if “Inkless” isn’t classic Pumpkins, I’m just not sure what is.  Corgan has always had a grand vision, and Oceania more than another other Pumpkins album is a victim of it.  It wouldn’t hurt to simply forget that Zeitgeist existed and start here with the new Pumpkins, but there is definitely room for improvement.


Check out the video for “Stand Inside Your Love” from 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God below.


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July 2012
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