Today is the release of the 7th Smashing Pumpkins album, ‘Zeitgeist‘ (6th if you don’t consider Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music an album)!
Folks, in some ways, I have been waiting for 7 years for this to happen! For those that have known me for quite a while, The Smashing Pumpkins were/are my favorite band of all time. I own every Pumpkins album released, plus pretty much every special album (the TEITBITE remixes, imported Stand Inside Your Love single). I was was even one of the 5 people or so who actually bought James Iha’s solo album too! When the band broke up in 2000, it sucked. Ive kept a close view on anything happening to any member of the band, from James joining A Perfect Circle, to Billy and Jimmy starting Zwan, Billy’s solo album and Jimmy doing the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex.
Right before the wedding, I posted here that the Smashing Pumpkins made it official that they were getting back together, but until this year, no one knew what that actually meant. It wasn’t until a few months ago we actually knew who the ‘new’ Smashing Pumpkins were. When I saw that its really only Billy and Jimmy again (who have been working together since the breakup), I was let down. Yes, the two of them actually DID most of the previous stuff (James and Darcy both kinda slacked off during Mellon Collie)…it just doesn’t feel right.
After the FIRST pumpkins concert back, my view changed. They released a torrent to download the entire concert live (you can still get it here). Ive been listening to this quite a bit waiting for this day to come. I picked up the CD at lunch today. You may have heard about the 4+ different versions of the CD (if you didnt, read the wikipedia entry about the album). I decided to purchase my copy from Target. This version included an extra track (that happens to be the title track). I figure in a few weeks, it will be pretty easy to get any of the other bonus tracks (if/when I get them, I will update this page with those reviews as well). I would have purchased this off iTunes, but since I have every other physical album, I wanted to continue that tradition.
Below is a quick, song by song review of the newest CD from one of the bands that started a musical genre. For many people who know the different ‘versions’ of the Pumpkins (Grunge to Rock to Electronica, etc), I’ll try to relate the songs to those eras. This album really seems to span all of them and beyond…
- ‘Doomsday Clock’ – This may be the second single – its currently being used in the Transformers soundtrack. I really like this song because it really sounds like the good ol’e Pumpkins, and really rocks. The deep bass on this song really helps out. I dont think there could have been a better song to start the album off with! This song reminds me a lot of ‘Tristessa’, one of the tracks off the first Pumpkin’s album Gish. When I was driving back to work listening to this, I couldn’t resist turning it up as loud as possible.
- ‘7 Shades of Black’ – Yet another bass driven, grunge tune. In some cases, I may have to say this is my least favorite song on the album. It just sounds like classic Pumpkin’s noise (from around the Siamese Dream era), which I like…but lacks any other substance. As you can see, I’m not a huge fan of this song, but it really helps with the transition into the next song…
- ‘Bleeding the Orchid’ – Imagine a rocking song from Machina. Make it rock some more. And you have this song. Some great solos and a really relaxing and comfortable beat. Its a really beautiful heavy metal ballad. The lyrics dont make much sense at all though ( Blessed my weakness / Blessed my wrongs / As hate forms the sequence / Of one by one / As freedoms die easy / We suffrage the want / There’s clouds in my shower / Ghosts in my arms). After reading through the rest of the lyrics of the song though, it sounds like this could almost be a ‘blessing’ or ‘apology’…possibly to ex-band members. Basically it sounds like Billy’s talking about the good old times ( So here we are / Upon your stage / The laughs we shared / The dreams we saved) with them. I guess you just have to figure out what the songs title actually means 🙂
- ‘Thats the Way (My Love Is)’ – A lot of people are saying this is the most Machina-esqe song on the album. I am thinking more of Adore (think of the song ‘Perfect’). The song has a really beautiful meaning and lyric ( That’s the way / my love is / That’s the way I care / You should call on me baby / I’m always there for you /Yeah, I’m always there for you). This could become a new single for them as well, but I think it may end up hitting some more of the Pop charts if it does.
- ‘Tarantula’ – First single from the album. To me, its a pretty rocking way to start the comeback of the Pumpkins. From what I have heard, this song is directed to the many ‘fake’ bands of today, who are more show than talent. This is the Pumpkins way of saying ‘watch out, we are the real thing’. The only thing I don’t like about this song is Billy’s vocals. It sounds like he recorded this in my living room. Interesting tidbit – Billy pronounced this more like ‘Tare-in-tu-la’ at Live Earth.
- ‘Starz’ – My first listen to the live recordings made me dislike this song – it is just too ‘pop’ for the Pumpkins ( I really dont like them saying ‘We are Starz!’ over and over again). The studio version rocks a bit more, and made me really start to like the song. I could really imagine this to be a GREAT song to start an encore off with. The drums are amazing, and the guitars just build up through the song. Right at the end its a FLURRY of cymbals that make it really hard not be singing along and not be pumped up. I cant really put this to anything the Pumpkins have done before, and I really like that.
- ‘United States’ – Think X.Y.U from Mellon Collie. Every Pumpkins album has had an epic or centerpiece song, and this is it. Its almost twice as long as any other track. Its basically centered on what the album is about – the spirit of the age. The keyword is revolution. This song is also perfectly placed, right in the middle of the album. You’ve spent the first part of the album rocking out and now its time to get serious.
- ‘Neverlost’ – This is a much slower song than the previous few, and probably one of the most musical on the album. Its very relaxing and you really get to concentrate on the musical aspects of the Pumpkins rather than just drowning guitars. Theres a cool little solo that sounds like a sythed guitar towards the end. This is the beginning of a lot of songs that dont really sound like anything else I have ever heard before….
- ‘Bring the Light’ – May be one of my favorite songs, mainly due to the guitar solo at the end. The song is a lot like Starz where it starts off slow and then builds up, but with Bring The Light, it picks up a whole lot faster. Billy layered his voice in this song a whole lot too, which adds a really cool effect. This song really shows how well Billy and Jimmy can intertwine the guitars and drums to play together in a way most bands can never get close to. The guitar solo I mention is right about halfway through the song. Billy sings a little bit while Jimmy does a lot of cymbal work. Billy then starts saying “BRING THE LIGHT” a few times, and then just slides down the guitar. Debs even thought the effect was pretty amazing. This is what made me love the Pumpkins..
- ‘(Come on) Let’s Go!’ – I really can only describe this song to be a mix of Bring the Light and Tarantula. It has the really upbeat feel from Bring the Light, but the crazy generic Pumpkin’s grunge. I really have to end up pairing this song with ‘7 Shades of Black’. I really cant get into it, but love rocking out to it.
- ‘For God and Country’ – Compared to the live stuff I heard before, I love this version more. Theres this cool synth keyboard that comes in and out that really rounds out the song. The rest of the background ends up being a REALLY deep bass that basically blurs whatever else (other than the drums) you can hear…which creates a really cool effect as well. As you can see above, this happens a few times through the album…and every one of these are different. This song is like some stuff you would hear on Adore and Machina, but an evolution. Ill sum that up later…
- ‘Pomp and Circumstances’ – I hate the ‘la la la la la la’ that the song starts off with. Its got a really great guitar solo through most of the song. Otherwise…I hate it. The background sounds like 90’s ambient music to me. Its cool to hear this and all, but with such a rocking album otherwise, I would have preferred to hear slow songs more like ‘For God and Country’ instead.
- ‘Zeitgeist’ (Target Exclusive Track) – Probably the quietest song on this album. Sounds a lot like many of the acoustic stuff from Adore or Machina (an acoustic version of ‘Try, Try, Try‘ comes to mind). I really wish this had actually been placed on all the versions of the album, and they left of crap like ‘Pomp and Circumstances’.
For those that liked the Pumpkins and want to hear something like the early 90s Pumpkins and the rock of Mellon Collie, this album will let you reminisce, but will possibly still make you upset. But if you are like me and enjoyed where the Pumpkins were going when they ended, some of the side work that formed in the last 7 years, your in for a treat. This really is an evolution of the band. I do feel cheated in a few ways, because we have seen Billy and Jimmy working together for years now.
I have two major gripes about this album. The first is that you really can tell on quite a few of the songs that its really just Jimmy and Billy now. So many layers really cover this up, but I would have been really excited to see what would have happened if everyone joined again, or at least James. The second gripe is actually the recording and mixing! Half the songs sound like Billy recorded them on a Mic hooked up to his computer in his bedroom. There is so much echo (and if it is a synth echo – it actually sounds out of place). Tarantula is a perfect example.
Id love to hear feedback about what others are thinking of this album….let me know!
Listening To: ‘Grow Old With Me’ by The Postal Service