18 June 2012
by Ryan Williams
When Smashing Pumpkins played London in 2011, the crowd was split. There were those who expected Smashing Pumpkins of old, playing ‘Mayonaise’ and ‘Today’ and there were the others who had resolved within themselves that Billy Corgan was the sole remaining member of the band and that Zwan wasn’t… that bad. The former left disappointed, having forgotten that the band originally left us in 2000 with a bizarre brace of albums that were disappointingly confused and a creative zenith in turn.
This is not a grunge band any more. It has not been for some time now. Get over it. Call them The Billy Corgan Band if you want. Claim the band’s legacy is disappearing up his arse if it helps. Ignore the fact Corgan appears to have been inspired by Isis in terms of naming songs and the album. Ignore it because it’s not really important. If you’re prepared to indulge the man’s psychedelic proto prog concept 100 per cent, this might all make sense to you.
Opening with squealing guitar and retro rock ‘n’ roll intent, ‘Quasar’ followed by the tumbling drums of the ethereal ‘Panopticon’ and the most Smashing Pumpkins-y song on the album ‘The Celestials’, it’s is a powerful introduction to an album as good as anything released since Adore. The comparison could still be made if this was a Billy Corgan solo album.
Midway through the meandering nine-minute title track is pure Pink Floyd. It’s a great song; dark and ferocious but as it careens from movement to movement, you remember that Corgan is a master songwriter. Every time you might kid yourself into believing that he’s eschewed all commercial desire in order to satisfy his own creative dealings, you remember another lick; another chorus. In spite of its vast inaccessibility, Oceania is a massively rewarding listen. Eventually.
Perhaps there’s too much meandering history about this band for their ever to be a truly cohesive response from fans. Maybe their reach is so far that to ever expect a uniform response to a Smashing Pumpkins album ever again is just too much. Either way, Oceania is what we have and while opinions may be split, there is no doubting that Billy Corgan knows exactly what he’s doing.
Sounds like: Billy Corgan solo, Zwan, Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins
Standout tracks: Oceania, Quasar, The Celestials