'A strong, short and sweet Pumpkins release'
Robert Ham
11:30 16th November 2018

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If you appreciate nothing else about the new LP from a newly/mostly reunited Smashing Pumpkins, you can at least admire its brevity. Even though it bears the cumbersome title of Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., the tenth studio album by Billy Corgan and all who ride with him is a tidy eight songs, clocking in just over a half-hour. A capitulation, maybe, to the shrinking attention spans of modern listeners, but also a welcome change for a group that, since their 1995 peak CD era opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, has a tendency to overstay their welcome.

With that spirit in mind, the band has written a suite of songs that are tightly contained, in both concept and construction. With the re-injection of original guitarist James Iha into the mix, the music builds off the firm alt rock-meets-psychedelia foundation that marked their earliest work, dressing it up along the way to meet Corgan’s modern whims.

The punk-ish snap of 'Marchin’ On' is softened just so by a floating string section. Closing track 'Seek and You Shall Destroy' filters the influence of ‘80s power pop through Corgan’s prog-metal dreams with scintillating results. And opening number 'Knights of Malta,' with its insistent piano melody and midtempo groove feels like a well-produced audition for a future Coldplay album. Only the Hendrix toned guitar solo and Corgan’s instantly recognizable whine connect it to the rest of the Pumpkins’ oeuvre. No matter what turns the songs take, Rick Rubin’s production keeps everything forward facing and at peak volume levels. It’s not an album you can easily let melt into the background.

Most of everything else in the world of Smashing Pumpkins ca. 2018 remains the same. Corgan sticks to his usual lyrical concerns of the emotional betrayals we suffer from others and inflict upon ourselves. Or he indulges in the kind of obtuse poetry of songs like ‘Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)’ where he sings, “Row like a felon/drown like a captain’s son/but say how long can this go on?’ That is one of the few extravagances on this album that feels gaudy. As does Corgan’s tendency to land some messages a little too squarely on the nose as with the chorus of ‘Alienation’ that ends with the line, "Alienation, of thee I sing." Eye-rolling moments like those are, gratefully, few and easy to ignore in the midst of an otherwise strong, short and sweet Pumpkins release.

Photo: Press