8 December 2012
The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
An album within an album. This is how Billy Corgan has billed Oceania in the build up to the release. For about September 2009 till May 2011 they had been releasing free songs for a 44 song project called "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" which is now on hold. Billy has said he wants to get back to it at some point, but he does not know when. This album is classed as part of the project, but is back to the traditional album release that they were trying to get away from. So much of a sameness from Corgan and his hired minstrels - say one thing then do another.
This is technically the 9th or 7th album released by the pumpkins (depending on if you count Machina II or Teargarden as albums). It is the first to have only Billy as the only original member of the band, following the departure of Jimmy Chamberlian after the slightly disappointing Zeitgeist. Now from the get go this album had a lot of people calling for it to not be released. Many of my friends derailed it's coming with the following phrase - It's not the Pumpkins, it does not have James Iha/ D'Arcy Wretzky/Jimmy Chamberlain in it - well, as I said to them - so what! It is his band and if you believe popular legend he recorded the most of Siamese Dreams on his own anyway. To say that he cannot do it cause he is the only original member is like pointing out Napalm Death should call it a day as it has none of the original members - pointless!
So I will proceed onto the music - we find the Pumpkins doing what they do best which is that sort of fuzzy guitar sound with reflective lyrics and the odd piece of electronica floating in the background. Opening track "Quasar" has a Gish era feel to it, "Pinwheels" would have sounded so at home on Adore it feels like it is an out-take, "The Celestials" is a slow build to a riff that towers over the whole album and the title track shows that Billy still wants to be a prog god at heart.
It is not a perfect album though, just like most of their releases you do find yourself wondering if an outside ear could have reigned in some of these tracks or given Billy a quick slap when he would not put down the guitar/keyboard/cowbell/oboe/whateverhewasplayingatthetime. Also it is part of a bigger picture which is still not finished and might not be, so we are yet to see where this all goes in the grand scheme which is the Teargarden. Because unlike the Machina project, it is still very much up in the air.
If an artist has a vision you hope the complete it then release it, not start it in public and half way through decide they might want to do something else and leave the other work like a half used dot-to-dot book. It makes the band look slightly shabby and that was never how you used to see the Pumpkins. Everything was finished and it's place before it was released to the public. They even went behind their record company's back to release Machina II as download for the fans. Due to this feeling of unfinished business it is difficult to figure where this album stands. It feels like it should be a jewel on top of a glorious crowning piece that defines a band. Instead it feels like it has stopped before it finished.
So, do I like it or hate it. To be honest I think it is the album/project they should have done instead of Zeitgeist, and I do hope they return to Teargarden and finish it off so this album can get the reputation it deserves. But as it is, a very excellent project and album with in an album can only be viewed as very good until it is completed.
7 out of 10 - This is good and well worth a check (This mark and review will be looked at once they finish the whole project)
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You can listen to on Spotify here
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