The Smashing Pumpkins : Oceania
Last week saw the death of Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. A best-selling exposition of successful professional traits, Covey’s book is a treatise on the special subject of the bleeding obvious. As a friend remarked once, 'All the people that I know who’ve read that book are extremely ineffective’. If you want your life advice dumbed down and diluted into simple, unassailable instructions, this is the book for you.
Billy Corgan presumably doesn’t give a flying profanity about Covey’s book, but you’d back him to believe in his own perennial effectiveness. Certainly, now that The Smashing Pumpkins has been reduced to the sum of Corgan’s creative input, and an admittedly more than competent supporting cast, Corgan can claim to be The Smashing Pumpkins.
Oceania is the third Pumpkins record released since Corgan reconvened the band in 2005. As always, there’s an element of pretension: with song titles like Quasar, Panopticon (Jeremy Bentham would be proud), The Celestials, The Chimera and Glissandra, Corgan clearly feels he’s operating on a higher plane. And maybe he is: Quasar builds like a dramatic galactic event, its crescendo consistent with the best Pumpkins material of yore. The nine-minute Oceania is deep and intense, a spiritual journey without the trite secular instruction; The Celestials continues the journey, as subtle as you’d want your sojourn into enlightenment.
On My Love Is Winter, the mood is reflective, and just a bit too schmaltzy to tolerate from a grown man; the synthesiser aesthetic of One Diamond, One Heart is more sugary new wave pop than post-grunge. Pinwalls rights the ship, finding a sharp pop relief lacking in its predecessor track, Pale Horse is Billy Corgan the lost cowboy, riding off toward the sun, only to find it’s his own reflection while The Chimera is what we’ve all come to hear, even if its original sharp edges have been rounded beyond the call of duty. And is that a metal guitar solo in Inkless, or are we just happy to see The Smashing Pumpkins back in town?
With 13 songs in well over an hour, you can’t help but feeling that Oceania has erred on the side of Corgan’s indulgence; a judicious edit could have made this good record possibly great. Maybe next time.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Oceania
If You Like This: hang out for the re-issues of Gish and Siamese Dream
In A Word: Indulgent