The Smashing Pumpkins, one of the greatest rock bands to come out of the 90’s music scene are heading back on tour in support of their latest release, Oceania. If their new album is any indication of the live show than the band is ready to rock as hard as they used to. The tour will kick off in Mexico City and then the band will make it’s way throughout Canada then head down the west coast and finish up on the east coast with a stop at Boston’s Agganis Arena on October 27. The band’s current lineup, which has Billy Corgan as the sole original member, consists of Mike Byrne on drums, Nicole Fiorentino on bass and Jeff Schroeder on rhythm guitar and keys. Unlike previous Pumpkins albums where it was mainly Corgan and then drummer Jimmy Chamberlin doing all of the instrumentation, Corgan has stated that all four band members were equally featured on the latest album.
Although nothing will ever top the period when the Smashing Pumpkins were one of rocks biggest bands, Oceania is an excellent effort from a band that has had so much drama surrounding it. Album opener “Quasar” immediately reminds me of “Cherub Rock” but, it’s in a good way one that makes you feel relieved rather than ripped off. The second track on the album, “Panopticon”, is classic Pumpkins sound featuring layers of guitar, thunderous drums and Corgan’s ability to write pop melodies over heavy riffs. And the already popular single “The Celestials” is not only catchy but has a great climb from acoustic strumming to full blown rock out. Of course Corgans voice is still intact over all these years and his lyrics of yearning for love seem slightly less troubled and more well aged like in “Violet Rays” where he cries “I’ll kiss anyone tonight”. The album most definitely tips it’s hat to the former Pumpkins material (see also Gish and Siamese Dream) but, in a way that makes it sound fresh, maybe it’s Corgan being open to collaboration. There’s lots of space on this record, more dream like qualities than straight ahead rock, “Pinwheels” is the perfect example, beginning with a keyboard into and then settling nicely into full band sound. Even the 9-minute title track Oceania, feels spacious, bringing the listener into three separate acts in one song that tie together nicely.
The idea that Billy Corgan is the only original member left could easily let the band fall into Axl Rose Guns ‘N Roses territory, but he has managed to take the platform that the Pumpkins were built on and bring new members into that world. Live reviews of their shows, like the set they played at the UK’s Splendour Festival have shown the band paying homage to a decent amount of the older material, songs like “1979”, “Zero”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Tonight, Tonight”. Billy Corgan has proven himself to be an ego maniac and control freak of what is now most definitely his band but, if Oceania is any sign of how successful letting your bandmates in can be than let’s hope he takes note of that.
The Smashing Pumpkins come to Agganis Arena on October 27th and you can grab your seats here.
Here’s a video of them performing “The Celestials” live on Leno.