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Music Review – Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

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I now begin my awaited Zeitgeist review. Why ‘awaited’? Because I regard myself as the greatest Pumpkins fan. That being said, I am not impossibly pro-Billy and blind to criticism. If you don’t believe that, read my just plain mean and terrible review of The Future Embrace. Two years later and I haven’t touched that CD. I don’t even know where it is… but it didn’t make the cut on my 20 gig iPod… so that should be telling.

So the Pumpkins are reunited. What does that mean, when only half the band came back? It means the only two who mattered are back. It has been long rumored and assumed that Billy Corgan did all the recording on the Pumpkins discs, meaning bass and guitar. Iha and Darcy were just a touring band. So, if we have Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan then we have 99% of the Pumpkins’ songwriting and recording team. I should note the albums credits are slyly succinct. They read, verbatim: “Jimmy Chamberlin: drums
Billy Corgan: everything else.” It was always suspected Billy did all the string work, now it’s official.

The new record is very good, but I can’t say great yet. If you are looking to hear Siamese Dream 2, this would not be the release for you. Of course, nothing would as Siamese Dream is the greatest modern rock record every made, only on par with Appetite for Destruction. Strong words, I know. The new record is so much a new feel of Billy Corgan, it actually sounds a lot closer to Zwan. In fact, you can really call this a Zwan re-union as well. Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin were both in Zwan and obviously the driving forces musically in that band.

The album does not fail to rock. In fact, this will sound stupid, but it rocks too hard. My favorite work of the Pumpkins is great introspective stuff like “Mayonnaise,” “Snail,” “Rhinoceros,” “Soma.” I won’t go through track by track, because I would need 40 or 50 listens to do that well. However, currently I am most fond of “Tarantula.” Problem is, I am not sure if that is because it is the best song or because they released it first so its jammed in my head (think Vertigo). Regardless, that song kicks major ass. If you are looking for Jimmy Chamberlain to ‘bore holes in your skull’, start with “United States.”

I have had the disc couple of weeks now (since release day). It has done quite well. It debuted at #2 on Billboard, and most of their shows have sold out. If you are a fan of the band, I definitely encourage you to pick it up. It isn’t that simple, though. Annoyingly, there are five versions out there. There is the standard CD (12 songs), the standard CD with a great and strange booklet, and three versions with extra songs. Best Buy has one with an extra song, Target has another with a bonus song, as does iTunes. Problem is, each release is ‘exclusive’ and not on the other bonus tracks. This means to get each of the three extra tunes on the market, you need to buy $100 worth of the same CD. To me, that is evil bullshit marketing, but clever. It’s not new, though. Zeppelin did it with the paper bag covered In Through the Out Door and Garth Brooks did it with his record breaking Wal Mart only live thingy. In addition, they also did a deal just for iTunes customers, pre-sale on concert tickets. I can’t quite figure out if that is ‘fan friendly’ or just good marketing.

Now that I do the math, maybe that is how the Pumpkins got to #2, it was just 12 or 14 super fans who bought every version. It’s ok, the Pumpkins have brought me more joy than I can put a dollar to, and knowing that I will see them Red Rocks this fall freaks me out! As for the extra three bonus songs out there, I’ll probably just nab them off Limewire. Dude already got my $23 for buying the ‘limited edition book’, and I ain’t buying four more CDs. Thank you for the music, Billy, and thank you for reading. You may now summarily tear into me below.

Talk amongst yourselves. First topic: the pic of Darcy’s bass in a casket.  Seems a bit overboard, don’t you think? Also, why no similar mention of Iha in the photography?

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About Lono

  • I’m that rare Pumpkins fan who owns each album by the band and has only listened to each maybe five times. That said, maybe I’m not really a fan, but rather just a diehard music collector.

    Anyway, the new album does indeed rock, and rises far above the Pumpkins previous release. However, I can’t help but feel that Billy has a sense of self importance that just pervades the music for me–like every album is going to be his Sgt. Pepper–and it interferes with the whole thing.

    >> First topic: the pic of Darcy’s bass in a casket. Seems a bit overboard, don’t you think? Also, why no similar mention of Iha in the photography?

    As to that, I think there is a huge part of Billy that wishes he where a solo superstar that didn’t need the Pumpkins moniker to achieve notable success.

  • Sam

    I am a hardcore Pumpkins fan, I own all of their albums, but I am kind of reluctant to pick up Zeitgeist. To me, it isn’t a Smashing Pumpkins record, it is a Corgan-Chamberlin side project. I don’t think I will see them in concert either (even though Corgan is my musical hero). It just isn’t the same without D’arcy or James.

    As to that, I think there is a huge part of Billy that wishes he where a solo superstar that didn’t need the Pumpkins moniker to achieve notable success.
    ^^I agree. Billy Corgan is extremely talented, but with every attempt on his own to influence a band (Example: Taproot and their album “Blue-Sky Research”), solo projects and side projects he has failed miserably and to the point of embarrassment (I believe that Corgan’s involvement with Taproot has musically set back Taproot. This reflects poorly upon Corgan). People mostly associate Corgan with Pumpkins, who kick ass. So maybe Billy thinks since people think the Pumpkins kick ass and he does bulk of the work, that he alone kicks ass….

    I will pick up this album sooner or later, but not now.

  • You know, both those are good points. That is why I mentioned it truly sounds more like a ‘Zwan’ disc than a Pumpkins disc. Basically, it lacks much of the warmth that SD & MCIS had.

    Once Billy settles down and stops trying to prove to everyone how he can still rock, he’ll make some really great music.

  • stove

    I dont think what your talking a about is a nab at D’Arcy. Being the Pumpkins superfan I am, you’ll notice it is actualy the bass that Melissa Auf de Maur used during the final tour along with the old “SP” logo with dolls of the whole band in the casket. I cant make out what the writing on the reef says, but Im pretty sure its just to let people know that those days are over and this is what the Pumpkins are now.

  • Stove,

    While I think you are right about the message, the bass with the rats on it is positively Darcy’s. I have seen them plenty with my own two eyes.

  • joe

    give it some more time. you will love it. this is not surface level music, so its common for people to have mixed feelings the first few times through. i guarantee withing 3 weeks you will love it.

  • I like the album but maybe it is because I was never a Pumpkins superfan. I like them, I don’t love them. I’m that rare bastard that actually likes the Zwan record more than anything else BC has ever done.

    As for Zeitgeist, I like the first half of the album a lot, the second half less. The layers of guitars are vintage Corgan.

  • gsj

    What happened to the Smashing Pumpkins? This is one of the worst cds I have ever heard. Gish and Siamese Dream were raw, innovative, spine tingling. They were albums that helped fuel my heart in times of crazy relationships, and my lost 20 something, defunct gen x punk mentality, while growing into manhood. Very personal music to me back then. Corgan was really trying in the 90s. Heart and soul, with everything damn thing he had. He was out to prove how good he could be, and he succeeded 3 fold. Not this time. He doesn’t even come out of the creative box. Zeitgesit is unimaginative, not exciting and so very dull, except for Tarantulla. The guitar and drums sound great, BUT sound the same on every single song. Lost is the Corgan rule of mixing up the sound of each song to stiffle a listeners boredom. The worst part however is the vocals. Which is shocking to me. Billy Corgan’s vocals have always been over the top in the diversity of notes and range of pitch that he is able to hit. Like a runaway freight train sliding over glass. He doesn’t do it here at all. 2 tones and pitches max. Droning, boring vocals with lyrics that he must have had Michael Bolton write for him. Just lame. What a dissapointment. A cd for the trash. He should listen to his old stuff because obviously forgot what he is capable of.