Review: Zeitgeist by The Smashing Pumpkins

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It has been two years since the release of the most recent Smashing Pumpkins effort (released on July 6, 2007).  For a band once known for bold, grand, drama-filled albums, Zeitgeist represents a great change for Billy Corgan – and a very unfortunate one at that.

In the past, the emphasis was on rock and pop.  Even the earliest releases (Gish and Siamese Dream) were focused on mass exposure concerns.  Rooted in blues-rock and layered guitars, both albums added excellence through the extra flourishes.  Siamese Dream was especially great with lighter outings in “Today” and full orchestral excess in “Disarm.”

The later works were even larger in scale, featuring show tunes (“Tonight, Tonight”), glam-electronic-rock (“Ava Adore”), eight minute epics (“For Martha”) and strange concept-like albums (Machina/The Machines of God).

Unlike all of these, Zeitgeist is a massive shift toward hard rock, and only hard rock.  From the beginning of the album, big drums and bigger guitars smack your ears, demanding singular attention at the music.  This would be great if used carefully.

Instead, the Pumpkins try to build a whole album off of one sound: loud, bass-y guitars and pounding drums.  There is no variation.  Even “lighter” efforts like “Bleeding the Orchid” quickly shift to a crazed aural assault, really just representing a slower version of the previous songs on the album.

Zeitgeist might have fared better if Billy Corgan weren’t so insistent on using his vocal delivery.  Possibly expressive passages (like through “Bring The Light”) might have been emotionally meaningful if not delivered through a nasally sneer.  Corgan’s voice doesn’t work so well in this new setting of thrashing guitars.

Maybe the only upside to Zeitgeist is the presence of Jimmy Chamberlain, longtime drummer for the Pumpkins.  He remains and offers thrilling fills, rolls and attacks.  Sadly, the whole album is not a drum solo, and the mainly-Corgan effort fails because of this.

Fans of The Smashing Pumpkins are advised to pass this one up.  The sound does not fit any hopes and only manages to frustrated with repeated listens.  This release mainly suits fans of standard “modern rock,” perhaps a Nickelback fan looking for something more guitar-based.

Now that the band is down to only Corgan, I no longer look forward to future releases from “The Smashing Pumpkins.”  Corgan no longer sounds interested in previous efforts.  Instead, he only looks to be out of attention and money, using the name of his once-great band to reap the benefits.

RATING: 2.5/10

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