The Smashing Pumpkins, “Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.”

The Smashing Pumpkins
Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
NAPALM
7/10

“I’m not everyone,” Billy Corgan sings on “Solara,” the first single from the new Smashing Pumpkins album Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

That’s the truth. The best way to describe Corgan succinctly might be to mention that he hasn’t voted since 1992. He does what he wants to do, and it’s usually in service to himself. Sometimes this entails making several appearances on the notorious alt-right talk show Infowars to talk about aliens. Sometimes it’s performing stream-of-consciousness electronic music inspired by Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha for eight hours at the tea shop he owns. And sometimes it’s writing and recording one of the best albums of the ’90s. It’s a mixed bag with Corgan, and the challenge has always been figuring out how much of it is worth your mental energy.

The Pumpkins’ major-label debut, 1993’s Siamese Dream, is essentially flawless. Things began to get iffy on the follow-up, 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which went platinum ten times over but was pushing it at two discs. Corgan’s artistic choices remained questionable from there, and he officially dissolved the band in 2000. Since then, “Smashing Pumpkins” has been a catch-all for Corgan and associated musicians, usually including guitarist Jeff Schroeder and often original drummer—and total powerhouse—Jimmy Chamberlin.

The latest album attached to the Smashing Pumpkins name, Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. (sigh), boasts the return of cofounder and guitarist James Iha, making it the closest thing to an actual reunion we’ve seen in almost twenty years. (Bassist D’arcy Wretzky is the lone original member absent—not surprising, given her acrimonious relationship with Corgan.) The new LP is a quick one, with eight tracks totaling half an hour. It was produced by Rick Rubin, and between his production and the songwriting, this album is far from a chore to listen to. More than that, even: It feels positive, like a happy marriage of Pumpkins past and present, as Schroeder also plays here. There are missteps, certainly; on “Alienation,” Corgan cannot resist rhyming the track’s title with “penetration,” and closing track “Seek and You Shall Destroy” is a bland ending when the album could’ve closed on the comparatively lovely “With Sympathy.”

But overall, there’s nary a bad vibe to found here, despite all the ragin’ and cagin’ promised by the angsty title. Corgan has delivered a reunion album that’s not exactly a triumph, but rather a pleasant experience worth returning to—and that’s a small triumph in itself, so let’s count it.

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