The Smashing Pumpkins "Oceania" Album Review — 5 out of 5 stars
Wed, 13 Jun 2012 08:05:43
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With Oceania, The Smashing Pumpkins craft a conceptual album of genuinely classic heft and massive proportions.
In many ways, this is the album Gish, Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore, Machina, and Zeitgeist essentially paved the way for. Oceania isn't just The Smashing Pumpkins at their best; it's rock music at its finest hour in over a decade. Each minute of the album warrants a deep listen and, once you reach the end, there's only one choice but to play it again. In that sense, it's on par with The Dark Side of the Moon and Quadrophenia and, yet, it's decidedly The Smashing Pumpkins alone.
A stirring hum rumbles at the start of "Quasar" just as Billy Corgan's wall of distortion fires off the entire song toward the outer reaches of the galaxy. A twisting lead line stabs through the bombastic drums from Mike Byrne and Nicole Fiorentino's anchoring bass. Jeff Schroeder bolsters the fuzzed-out bliss, and "Quasar" stands out as one of the band's heaviest and most hypnotic gems ever. Corgan's wail sounds pristine, floating over the metallic mastery beneath.
As soon as the final guitar solo subsides, "Panopticon" marches forth on another towering riff and Byrne's flawless percussive propulsion. "Love is here," Corgan announces as the distortion subsides on a divine refrain. The frontman paints a picture of reminiscence that's equally spacey and stunning, especially as the clean tones of his guitar rise in rapturous form. "The Celestials" shine brilliantly as Corgan's voice elegantly delivers another tale of love in the cosmos over vibrant acoustic guitar. It's cinematic and ethereal, colored by flourishes of tambourine and Fiorentino's gorgeous harmonies. "I'm gonna love you 101 percent," our hero declares before the six-string sound entwines with the rhythms and lifts off into another stadium-size chorus backed by more booming guitars.
"Violet Rays" is another pensive and poetic diamond punctuated by a futuristic warbling keyboard, and "My Love Is Winter" remains infectious as the hook's warm embrace closes in on the listener. Vibrant keyboards glisten during "One Diamond, One Heart" seguing through the second act of this journey that spins along psychedelically during the faintly beautiful "Pinwheels".
At the center of the ride, "Oceania" is a true juggernaut, ebbing and flowing like all great progressive epics. In that sense, the title track adds another tier to the overall experience—it's like a journey within the larger journey. "Pale Horse" rides into futuristic alternative territory, while "The Chimera" bares its teeth turned back up to eleven. "Glissandra" feels like a love letter from the edge of the galaxy.
The penultimate track "Inkless" bleeds right into Corgan's poignant final word on "Wildflower". Together, they blossom into an a propos finale worthy of the 60-minute journey. God knows how long it's been since any artist built a record that begged to be listened to from beginning to end. No one does it anymore. However, The Smashing Pumpkins did it, and they did it just as well as the legends who came before them.
Oceania is the year's best rock record and a milestone for the genre. Hopefully, it incites and inspires a new generation. The Pumpkins are no strangers to that concept…
Are you excited for Oceania? It's streaming at iTunes this week
Pre-order the album here!
See our retrospective on Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness here!