Smashing Pumpkins

Zeitgeist

Written by: PP on 30/09/2007 03:09:50

As a reviewer it's always difficult to avoid potential embarassement and a reader backlash when you are reviewing an album of a band that's loved by millions upon millions, without ever having owned as much as a song from the band in the past. I mean, I'm supposed to be the all-knowing one here, given the fact that I'm writing a review which could form the basis of your puchasing behaviour.

So instead of pretending like I know what the hell I'm talking about, which is something you can do for small and/or obscure bands, I'll just flat out tell you that "Zeitgeist" is my first Smashing Pumpkins album: I've just never stumbled upon the band during my conquest of tracing back great albums of the 90s. Consequently this review will focus more on the actual album than retrospective comparison to the critically acclaimed Pumpkins albums.

But even for a first time listener like me, it is easy to recognize some of the elements that presumably made Smashing Pumpkins such a worshipped band. Billy Corgan's whiny vocals have a strange sense of grandeur to them when they force their way on top of the buzzing, bass-heavy instrumentation. "Doomsday Clock", the album opener, is a rocker written straight for the stadium sized venues - my mind's eyes can almost see myself standing in the cold drizzle at Roskilde listening to Corgan's melancholic voice and the rumbling guitars.

The production is purposefully low-budget sounding, allowing for little scratches and glitches in the sound, brilliantly avoiding the pitfall for many bands of their size whose sound usually tends to be overly smooth and polished. The fact that the bass string vibrations are so clearly audible creates a sense of identity, especially when accompanied with the often razor-sharp guitar solos scattered around the album.

The ten minute mammoth track "United States" is understandably the one that needs the most scrutiny - some reviews even refer to it as the 'center piece' of the album. Here's where I have to disagree. Although the melancholic overtones are ever-present and fit into what can be described as the Pumpkins signature sound, the song doesn't really progress fast enough. Throughout various passages I felt like the song was just dragging on merely for the sake of being a long track.

And so ends the first half of the album. It's had quite a few enjoyable stadium rockers, the kind where you'll have the entire few dozen thousand crowd jumping with their hands in air. The songs have been straightforward rock songs without sounding boring or cliché, a good achievement in itself already. The second half, however, doesn't hit the home run that it was otherwise well set for. The songs become really weird even on the Pumpkins scale and sway too far away from the rocking sound. There are too many ballads, and too few songs with the same passion for music as an art form as earlier on the record. The album simply loses its magic touch that kept me interested throughout.

In conclusion, I'm still not the person to make the decision whether or not "Zeitgeist" is an album worthy of wearing the worshipped Smashing Pumpkins tag. However, I am qualified to say that we have a bunch of decent rock songs on this album. It's good, but just not great.

7

Download: Doomsday Clock
For the fans of: Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Placebo
Listen: Myspace

Release date 10.07.2007
Reprise

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