After seven years of waiting, Smashing Pumpkins fans have something to be excited about. The band's newest album, "Zeitgeist," is live and it's not that bad.
Since the band broke up in 2000 after the release of "Machina: The Machines of God," the Smashing Pumpkins haven't had much of a voice in the rock world. Under the supervision of front man Billy Corgan, "Machina II: The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music" was released to Internet scourers as the last official release from the band. Following the break up came Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's Zwan in 2003, a ho-hum rock band with a indie pop attitude that didnít make an incredible impression on anyone. Now, the Smashing Pumpkins are back and in full effect, though minus half the original members.
"Zeitgeist" isn't a masterpiece, nor is it a top-three Pumpkins' album, but it's good and deserving of attention. The music is enjoyable and is reminiscent of Pumpkins albums of the past.
Like "Gish" and "Siamese Dream," "Zeitgeist" was recorded entirely by Corgan and Chamberlain. Corgan, who has always been the bandís sole songwriter, keeps the guitar tracks practically the same ó solos about, rhythm heavy and melodic.
Corgan, though, changes up the bass guitar's tone here and there, depending on the song. Past albums consisted of mostly low tones, but "Zeitgeist" has a couple tracks where audible cuts of treble break through the music.
The drums sound only as Chamberlain can make them sound, and they've got the punch and guts of "Siamese Dream" mixed with a bit of "Machina."
After the album was completed, the Pumpkins enlisted bassist Ginger Reyes of the Halo Friendlies and guitarist Jeff Schroeder of The Lassie Foundation to become full-time members.
Many of the tracks on "Zeitgeist" will mostly remind listeners of "Mellon Collie," "Adore," "Machina" and "Machina II." "Bleeding the Orchard" sounds like it should have been on "Mellon Collie" or "Adore," since it has that sad, somber sound to it. "That's the Way (My Love Is)" has "Machina" written all over it. It's a wonder if Corgan sat on these songs, waiting to release them, or if he got over his Zwan bug and had actually written something worthy of the Corgan name.
Tracks like "Tarantula," the album's first single, and "Doomsday Clock," which made its way onto the "Transformers" soundtrack, are some of the heavier hitters on the album. They yell Pumpkins through and through, and leave a lasting impression due to Corganís nearly infectious and catchy writing. Vocal hooks in a Pumpkins song? You bet.
An avid Pumpkins fan, most specifically anyone whoís followed Corgan's solo works, will notice the front man's limited vocal range on most of the album. Whether it's intentionally done or is due to being timid, Corgan hasn't sounded this apprehensive since, well, never. To make up for it, Corgan incorporates more harmonies and sing-along parts, something akin to "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," especially the second disc of the two-disc album. It's not exactly a bad thing, because the limitedness doesn't add nor take away from the album in any way.
"Zetgeist's" strongest tracks are "Tarantula," "Neverlost," "(Come On) Let's Go!" and "Pomp and Circumstances." All of them embody what's best about the Smashing Pumpkins ó they're bold, addictive listens, and great works of music.
But, where there are plusses there must be negatives, and "Zeitgeist" has some imperfections. Some of the vocal effects, such as the echoing on "Starz" and "United States," are laughable. To end a nearly 10-minute rock opera like "United States" with vocal echoes can cause cringing. Though "Starz" seems like a "Machina II" reject, it doesnít seem to correctly fit with the rest of the album, all due to those echoes.
One of the most noticeable differences is the album's political tinge. Everyone else is commenting on the current presidential administration, so why not the Pumpkins? Some might embrace it but the move might get a collective "eh" by most. It's not exactly breathtaking, awe-inspiring or thought provoking, but, in all respects, it gets the job done, albeit in a sophomoric way. Tracks like "United States" and "For God and Country" are fun listens but arenít going to be the tracks fans jump to right away for their Pumpkins fix.
Once all is said and done, the best thing about "Zeitgeist" is the (fingers crossed) promise that the Smashing Pumpkins are back. As one of the best rock bands of the 1990s, it's great to hear something not monotonous (think Nickelback and Hinder) for a change. If this is the sound of the Pumpkins to come, all is mostly good, but there can be some changes for the better.Rating: