Friday, July 20, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist Album Review

4.25 ninja stars out of 5

There has been a lot of talk lately that the 2007 Smashing Pumpkins aren't really the Smashing Pumpkins. Where's James Iha? Where's D'Arcy Wretsky? And although this may be true live (I've seen Iha play live during his short stint with A Perfect Circle and he's really good) Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain have played just about every note recorded on a Pumpkins record since Siamese Dream (except Adore when Chamberlain was kicked out of the band).

This being said I didn't like this album at first. It's no Siamese Dream. It's no Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Where's "1979" part 2? But these are all unfair comparisons (listening to their greatest hits album the week before didn't help either) . Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie are two of the best albums of the 90's and are on many publications lists as some of the best of all-time.

Just as on other Pumpkins albums Zeitgeist will grow on you as Corgan's voice (always the most unlikely of front-men), which at first listen is nasal and annoying, digs deeper into your conscience to the point where it become beautifully tragic and compelling. And it doesn't hurt that the music behind him is great either which it is.

Zeitgeist begins with "Doomsday Clock" which may very well be a Corgan-penned letter from Eddie Vedder urging the Pumpkins to return after the loss of so many great 90's acts. With the Pumpkins you just never know. Corgan's writing has always been a Pandora's box of perplexingly vague yet personal poetry (pardon the alliteration) such as "Today" the heartsick story of love loss and desired suicide sung with a happy disposition. And Corgan has always been media shy in a controlling Barry Bonds-style manner to the point where you never really know what he's trying to get across. This can either be annoying or intriguing depending on your point of view. I tend to take the former in this current age of instant info and blogasphere half-truths (excluding this one of course).

Take the album art and song ''United States" for instance. The cover depicts the Statue of Liberty half-covered with water and the sun just above the waves. Created by the artist behind Obey clothing it represents a sort of choose your own adventure tag line, Is the sun rising or setting? Is the water rising or falling/ Just as in "United States" Corgan gives no answers just further questions. Doing so he comes off as either an everyman who recognizes that the present is important yet doesn't have the answers or someone who doesn't want to alienate part of his fanbase.

Whatever he's trying to say Zeitgeist (the Spirit of the Age) is one of those rare albums that not only gets better with each listen but can also be put on repeat without getting old. That is until your ears hurt from your i-buds. With or without Iha I can't wait to see them live.

Standout tracks: "Tarantula", "(Come On) Let's Go", "Neverlost"

No comments: