|The Smashing Pumpkins - 'Oceania' (Martha's Music)|
|Written by Rob Watkins|
|Saturday, 23 June 2012 04:00|
What can I say about the mythical and alternative musical phenomenon from Chicago Illinois The Smashing Pumpkins that hasn't been said already? Nothing really, so what about if I just cut to the chase with this the band's ninth studio opus entitled 'Oceania' or to be more precise the next part of the ongoing 44 song concept album 'Teargarden By Kaleidyscope' a project inspired by the Tarot which as Billy Corgan himself stated is "an album within an album" in relation to its predecessor.
So what of the music behind this concept?
A swaying crescendo of sounds brings 'Oceania' to life on opening number 'Quasar', a tune that eventually blossoms out into quite the little rocking number with all the elements of classic Pumpkins present and with the incorporation of beautiful instrumentation in all the right places. 'Panopticon' again rocks the speakers to the Pumpkins limit, but it's the little psychedelic musical pockets that suddenly pop up that exhibit the strength and depth to Billy Corgan's songwriting prowess. That elegant craft is so evident on 'The Celestials' a track with similarities to the distinguished "Mellon Collie" era of the band, this is a tune with all the commercial elements ready to lift off to gothic pop-dom and beyond.
'Violet Rays' is another deliciously created song with it's biting meaningful intelligent lyrics and a crystal clear sound courtesy of Bjorn Thorsrud, who has worked with the likes of Nelson, Monster Magnet, Whitesnake and the Dandy Warhols as well as previously working with Corgan on other different projects). Songs on 'Oceania' such as the progressive 'My Love Is Winter' and the almost trance inspired 'One Diamond One Heart' showcase some new musical territories Corgan has deemed himself ready to explore, making this collection of tunes possibly his greatest accomplishment as a songsmith since the aforementioned 'Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness' which although difficult to surpass in sales figures alone is perhaps not so in the quality and style of songwriting.
Another example of this quality is evident on 'Pinwheels', an acoustic based track which with the inclusion of strings and Corgan's laid back bittersweet vocal approach elevates you the listeners with all it's dreamlike psychedelic musical moments, and if The Smashing Pumpkins have possibly brought any originality back into the tired music scene of today then it is this dreamy quality that does so, especially when it is escalated on title track - the epic sounding nine minute plus 'Oceania'. This track (pretty much like every track on 'Oceania') is a real pleasure to the ear with subtle chord progressions that once again highlight Corgan as a major player in songwriting circles, and sounding like the complete Pumpkins package due to perfect instrumental accompaniment from drummer Mike Byrne (whose playing throughout the opus is quite breathtaking), guitarist Jeff Schroeder and bassist Nicole Fiorentino, each musician taking their individual instruments to new heights.
Next up is the commercial gothic sway of 'Pale Horse' with Corgan's softened focused mellow tones which works well as a counterpoint to the slightly raised tempo of 'The Chimera' which alongside 'Glissandra' have what it takes to make this release one of the musical highpoints of 2012 for me. The album concludes on yet another duo of highs with 'Inkless' and 'Wildflower', where the epic sound of the latter track has all the essentials for classic pomp Pumpkins.
With 'Oceania' The Smashing Pumpkins are back in fashion with what I have already said is an album of the year contender for yours truly.