The path to the Smashing Pumpkins’ 10th release has been one filled with many twists, turns and frankly enough clickbait to choke a horse. Truth be told, a mixture of snide journalism and Corgan's outspoken views have helped distract from the outfit's music this past decade, so a quick recap is probably a good idea even for the faithful.
For the first time since the original line-up split in 2000, founding member James Iha has returned following a guest appearance on last year's 'Ogilala' - Corgan's atmospheric solo release. Hatchet (very) surprisingly buried, drumming legend Jimmy Chamberlin has also officially returned to the fold, joining long-time guitarist Jeff Schroeder and - of course - our prolific frontman.
Enlisting Rick Rubin after his stellar work last year, the partially 'reformed' Pumpkins set about recording one song to promote their grand 'Shiny and Oh So Bright' tour, quickly submitting eight to the bearded guru. Liking what he heard, all were accepted and two planned EPs soon became, 'No Past. No Future. No Sun.' Still with us? Good. Now, how do the tracks fare against waves of cynicism, nostalgia, and the fact that a known perfectionist smashed them out at double time? Pretty damn well.
From the off, there's a more carefree and optimistic mood to proceedings, hell, opener 'Knights of Malta' literally opens with the lyrics, "We’re gonna make this happen ", before adding a swaggering bass riff and gospel choir. It's new territory for the Pumpkins, but one that suits the group's inherent sense of grandeur. Second single 'Silvery Sometimes' has already become something of fan favourite, an infectious mid-tempo rocker that carefully treads both new and old ground, something June's underwhelming comeback number 'Solara' failed at.
The ghost of the short-lived Zwan project emerges on the dizzying romance of 'Travel', all shimmering guitars and retro synth stabs to warm an introvert's heart. Showcasing Corgan's love of the anthemic is album highlight 'Alienation', a slow building sing-along that's equal parts The Cure and Queen, and would have slotted nicely into 2012's under-appreciated 'Oceania'.
It's when the quartet grab the distortion pedals that things get a little stock. 'Marchin' On' is a serviceable headbanger, and features some of Chamberlin's trademark drumming, but just acts an excuse for the band to sneer about nothing in particular. The following 'With Sympathy' however is dreamy, melancholic, lovelorn and filled with little melodic subtitles that stick in both ear and heart. Basically, a perfect Pumpkins number that picks up where the OG members left off.
Closing this sprightly reunion is the defiant 'Seek And You Shall Destroy', a catchy stomper that aims for the sun and makes a suitable finale for the past half an hour of muscle flexing. Is this new release going to blow any minds? Doubtful. Yet 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1.' sees these alternative figureheads finding their chemistry once more, whilst opening an intriguing new chapter.
They've managed to beat the haters this time, let's just hope things remain cool in the SP camp.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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