Oceania EMI ****
Billy Corgan is the only Pumpkin left in the patch these days – he’s been through a good few band members over the years, which is telling in itself. One of rock music’s most awkward, infuriating and contradictory characters, he is also inspired, gifted and prone to more than the odd bout of musical magic – of which Oceania, thankfully, is one example.
Just last year Corgan was loudly announcing that the rock album was “a dead medium” and he was going to release new material over the internet for free but, inconsistent as ever, he has come up with an old-style LP – albeit an “album within an album” as it’s thematically part of his giant Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project.
Corgan has been struggling to recapture the considerable highs of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness with his more recent output, but this rambunctious, 13-track affair is magnificent.
Opener Quasar – with its sonic nods to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love – has a delectable squall of guitar sounds, some truly pissed-off percussion and an epic feel.
Mostly hard and loud, Oceania also has the odd 1979 moment such as early highlight The Celestials – the type of ballad he seemed to have renounced in his latter work. On My Love is Winter he shows he hasn’t lost his pop music touch, while One Diamond, One Heart is surely chart bound.
Pop hooks, prog and hard rock co-exist to great effect and it’s that variety that really lifts this album. Such is the scope that, at times, you can hear Roger Waters, the Edge and Ritchie Blackmore in it.
Just as one sound has found its groove, Corgan swerves abruptly to change mood, tone and intent, creating a multi-layered work that is a complete guitar-rock album. He has, mercifully, waved away the melodrama of old to focus on the Grade A guitar music that he has always been capable of.
Dive in and splash around – there’s so much to enjoy here. smashingpumpkins.com
Download tracks:Quasar, The Celestials, One Diamond, One Heart, Pale Horse