Monday, June 18, 2012

The Smashing Pumpkins- Oceania Review

I just received my copy of The Smashing Pumpkins' new album: Oceania. I've been listening to the free live stream on the weekend and feel like I've given it an adequate enough listen (I hope) in order to give a fair track by track review.

1- Quasar
This is one of four songs from the album that I heard live in October when I journeyed to Vegas to see them perform on top of a was great. This is an ambitious track to start the album with since it is probably the hardest/loudest song on the album. The guitars are awesome and explore some cool effects along the way. The drumming on this album is of note because it's the first album released with new drummer Mike Byrne...he does spectacularly. Tracks like Quasar really show off his skills. The vocals have a bit of an echo that make the song sound like it's being performed in a warehouse with an echo, but I dig it.

2- Panopticon
The first time I heard this song was also live, and also came right after Quasar. Whereas Quasar live really got me excited for the album, Panopticon didn't really connect with me the first time I heard it. I listened to my live recording of it a few times and it still didn't grab me. On the album however, the recording is sharp and the little nuances of sound here and there really make it pop. I'm specifically impressed by the cool baseline that Nicole Florentino has added to the track. This one grew on me and continues to grow on me as a great rock song.

3- The Celestials
I don't believe that Billy plans to release a single off of this album, however I've heard rumors that he'd want Celestials to be that single if there was one. This song is beautiful. It starts with accoustic guitar, Billy and I think it's Nicole melodiously singing, "til the end." The song sounds so simple, but then at 1:16 the bass comes in, the background drops out and the bass shows up in a way that no other pumpkins song has ever attempted. By 1:53 I swear I can hear this song blasting from every car radio on the street. This song rocks HARD by the end, and I would love to see this song put out as a single. I think that the average radio listener would leave the channel alone and nod their head to this song.

4-Violet Rays
This songs starts out straight up "weird." Is it 2012? Or is it the 80's? By the time the guitar comes in and the drums kick it up, this song becomes a deep portrait where the lyrics are singled out. "And I'll leave with anyone...TONIGHT." This song seems to bring in a lot of the moodiness that the Pumpkins used to experiment with on Adore and late Machina, but it's infused with more of this new song writing prowess that Billy continues to push. I love this song...not for the radio to blast, but for late nights with my headphones in.

5- My Love is Winter
Probably the coolest title on the album. This sounds like it could have been one of those acoustic songs that Billy writes, performs once or twice, and then abandons. However, he has infused an energy that keeps this song from turning into a drab throw away and keeps it alive. The cool melody that comes from a keyboard of sorts in the middle really shakes things up and the Pumpkins really milk every last drop out of this song...and they succeed in doing so in my opinion.

6- One Diamond, One Heart
Like Violet Rays, this song starts off with a weird synth vibe to it. Sans the vocals I'd never be able to pick this out as a Pumpkins song until about 50 seconds in. I love that Billy and co. like to shake things up and catch the leader unaware. I really enjoy Billy's solo album and some of the synthy-er stuff the pumpkins do. This song hasn't grown on me as much as some of the others, but it's easy listening and comes at a great place in the album.

7- Pinwheels
This song also starts out really weird. The first guitar chords though really transform this song into something special. Upon first listen you are thinking, "where is this taking me?!" The song keeps building and building and then some very Billy-esque guitars come in around 1:33 and layer after layer of tone melds together to evoke strong emotions. The singing is beautiful with Billy singing along side Nicole (I think). This song would also be tough to fit in with songs from the old Pumpkins' catalog, but that's what I like about it. Billy pushes for every album to be interesting. This is by far the prettiest song on the album.

8- Oceania
Much like Paul McCartney and Wings' "Band on the Run" this song is like 3 different songs strewn together with musical thread. We are treated once again to Nicole's awesome bass contributions to the album. I think her membership in the band does a lot to discovering new horizons for their music. Billy used to record/write all of the bass but it sounds like he's let her take the reigns for this album, and it works out really well. The first part of the 3 part play is interesting and on its own wouldn't stand, but then we move to part II where we get all acoustic and deep. It sounds almost Simon and Garfunkel-esque. "Oh would I follow you?" So much honesty in his voice. The song ends in a flurry of cool drums and bass which really work. Zeitgeist had its 9 minute plus "United States" and Billy seems to try to fit one really long track on most of their albums...Oceania works. Again, not as a crank it in your car and sing, but as a, "put your headphones in and explore this."

9- Pale horse
Also heard this song live. The studio version doesn't add much to the live performance, but it doesn't really need to because the point of this song is to chill the listener out after the crescendo of Oceania. This song would also be hard to peg in the extensive catalog of Pumpkins music...but again, that's Billy's aim here. If people wanted 5 albums that sounded just like Siamese Dream then they're out of luck. Those of us who enjoy the progress and the vast soundscape the band has created over the last 6 years especially are pleased with songs like this.

10- The Chimera
This song shakes off any lethargy from the chill tones of Pale Horse. I can only salivate about hearing this song live. They play the opening fast on the album, I surmise that they'll play even faster live and it'll rock. This song really showcases where the band is right now. When the Pumpkins want to rock they can really ROCK. This song reminds me of songs like, "Come on let's go" and "Bring the Light" from Zeitgeist. Faster rock songs towards the end of the album to lift our spirits and remind us that the album is here to rock you in case that has faded from your memory over the last 3-4 chiller tracks. So good, can't wait to hear this one live.

11- Glissandra
The drums come fast and the guitars are howling as this song effect. I can see myself enjoying this one live for sure. For now, the album version is good, but suffers from the fact that it is located between the Chimera and Inkless...possibly 2 of the best songs on the album...especially the latter. On its own it's a good song, but it doesn't really do as much for me personally as some of the other songs. Enjoyable, but not the best song on the record.

12- Inkless
The BEST song on the album in my opinion. The riff is probably the best Billy has written since re-starting the band. "The stars are out tonight"....great lyrics to start a song. The drums are tight, the melody is euphoric and reaches straight through the speakers and starts to squeeze your heart. Memories of friends, love, success, failure, it's all there. The solo makes you want to just close your eyes and wander around the room with your eyes closed. I can hear Billy wanting to scream these lyrics as loud as he can...but he holds back...for the album. I can only imagine that he'll be a bit louder during live performances. Really a beautiful on the album in my opinion.

13- Wildflower
Not sure where I come out on this song. Pumpkins have a way of ending their albums with a quiet song (except for Quiet was track 2 on bad pun). My favorite ending to a Pumpkins album was on Machina: The Machines of God where they ended with "Age of Innosence." Why? Cause it ended upbeat and energetic. Wildflower is a beautiful song to be sure. Billy has used a lot of synth on this album and the Depeche Mode fan in me loves it. In fact this song reminds me a bit of "Waiting for the Night" from Depeche Mode's Violater. Great song albeit a bit misplaced in my opinion. Still a great one to listen to at night.

Overall if I had to rank this album on a ten star scale I'd give it a 9. Some people will be down on this album because as of now there is no single, and because once again Billy didn't just make a Siamese and the Infinite Sadness rehash to please the radio and MTV...but that's what I like about it. When the album has no single, then you make the singles yourself. In this case- Celestials, Quasar, and Inkless would be my choices...and I'll crank these loud in my car so that others start scanning their stations to try and find them...but you can only find them in one place- Oceania. Definitely some of the Pumpkins' best work. Bravo Billy, Mike, Jeff, and Nicole- JR

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where I been? it's June and I've got some things to catch up. My apologies, it was an incredibly busy end of the school year. But here I am..dunna..Rock you like a Hurricane!

1st off: Let's talk Avengers word... HOLYCRAPTHATWASAWESOME.

2nd: I had to hike the G the other day for graduation. I lit the thing and hiked back down around 1:30. It HURT. The last time I hiked that I was a sophomore. This time I was 30 and that thing was steep! Hurt going up, hurt coming down. I'm excited to work with the student body officers though.

3rd: I bought tickets for Metric this October...very pumped.

4th: School year ended well, though I was heart broken by the lack of effort given to me by some students. Failure...I an option.

5th: I'll do a better job from here on out, my summer is open now. Prometheus Thursday night at midnight baby! Will hopefully have a better review for that one- JR