Review: Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist (Limited Ed. Silver)

07May08

Hey fellow truth-seekers! Its your buddy Fiskum here. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is Playgirl, that Fiskum is still not this month’s bare-ass naked Centerfold, so this must be another CD review. Correctomundo, my fellow travelers.

And what’s our topic this week? Zeitgeist. Smashing Pumpkins. Newly released, so-called “limited edition silver” gray-cover CD with special bonus DVD that has 20 minutes of Billy Corgan telling us how great he is. Rob Reiner couldn’t have produced a more pompous rockumentary, all about these tortured artists (all two of them) living together in a big house-turned-recording studio.

I acknowledge I’m no hardcore Pumpkins fan from back in the day. They had some pretty cool albums in the mid 90s, and they didn’t do much since about 2000. Then in 2007 Billy Corgan came back and “reformed” the band, bringing together himself and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin but forgetting to call bassist D’arcy and guitarist James Iha. It doesn’t bother me too much that only half of the band plays on Zeitgeist; but to iterate, I’m not a hardcore Pumpkins fan. My guess is that Corgan owns the name, and accordingly gets to call whatever band he happens to be in “Smashing Pumpkins”.

With only one-half a band, you have Corgan playing guitars and bass and Chamberlin playing drums. Chamberlin is what Zeitgeist has going for it. If there is a better rock ‘n’ roll drummer, I can’t think of who it might be. (Ask me tomorrow after my morning-after dose of caffeine, vitamin E and steroids. Maybe I’ll think of someone.) Chamberlin is Carl Palmer and Buddy Rich and The Incredible Hulk combined. Energetic is an understatement. He moves the music forward, fills holes, and plays melodically at times. He doesn’t quit.

The guitar work on Zeitgeist is okay. It’s not as furious as on the Pumpkins’ mid-90s stuff. Some of it is actually quite good. Corgan’s solo on “That’s The Way (My Love Is)” is really cool. He plays with a dark, dense, distorted, textured timber that is really pretty and sounds like early U2. The solo should have been a bit longer with more development. Corgan’s playing on “United States” has a Hendrixesque quality to it; and probably not by accident. It doesn’t have the same kind of intricate development-to-climax typical of Hendrix, but Corgan is not Hendrix. “Bleeding The Orchid” is also interesting—a well-chosen chord progression, lots of depth as the attention shifts from the foreground to background and back to the foreground, and some more interesting guitars.

I listened to Zeitgeist a couple of times for this review. Somewhere toward the end of the first listen, it occurred to me that while I really liked the instruments, Corgan’s voice was starting to get irritating. It is a little too high in the mix and sounds a little too pointy and nasally. And from what I could hear of the lyrics, they’re pretty insipid. But hey, this is straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll. Not this alt-crap from a decade ago.

Did I mention the DVD that comes with this special CD/DVD package? It’s an interesting (and mercifully brief) study of one man’s belief in his own self-importance. Its really entertaining, and I recommend it. See you next week kids!

Fiskum

www.fiskum.com



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