The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Smashing Pumpkins ZeitgeistReview Snapshot: While Zeitgeist sounds intrinsically like a Smashing Pumpkins album, it sounds like a Smashing Pumpkins album from the 1990’s.  A diplomatic description of the bands first release in seven years is ‘pointless.’  A more damning critique would be to view Zeitgeist as nothing more than Billy Corgan shoring up his pension fund.

The CLUAS Verdict? 3 out of 10

Full Review: When Billy Corgan decided to take out a newspaper advertisement to announce the 'reformation' of the Smashing Pumpkins, I must admit, I was surprised. Corgan had, after all, been pimping Smashing Pumpkins music as both Zwan and under his own name since the group split. To paraphrase the Bard 'That which we call a Smashing Pumpkin, by any other name would sound the same.'

With this announcment though, images of a heavyweight fighter, clearly out of shape, punch drunk for the last seven years and stepping in to the ring for one last pay cheque, circled my mind. This was surely little more than a get rich quick scheme designed to trade on the Smashing Pumpkins brand.

After my first listen I actually laughed. Corgan was clearly undertaking the biggest practical joke in the history of alternative music by allowing a Smashing Pumpkins tribute band (the Mashing Thumpkins no doubt) to record an album and release it under their heroes moniker.  Checking the album sleeve confirmed that this was not the case however, meaning that Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin had merely adopted the roles of Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles by building a cardboard cut-out of Rock Ridge (or in this case the Smashing Pumpkins) to protect the original.

That they managed to recreate the original Pumpkins sound without half the original line-up is an impressive achievement.  However, the problem with the 2007 version of the Smashing Pumpkins is that songs like Doomsday Clock and Tarantula, without the melodic buffeting and, indeed, genius of a Tonight or 1979, sound too aggressive to make for comfortable continuous listening.   

Despite all of this, Zeitgeist may well keep existing Smashing Pumpkins fans happy. It may be a watered down (in terms of variety) version of a Smashing Pumpkins album but it is still a new release that many may have feared would never come. That being said, there is very little here to keep a casual listener coming back or, less forgivable, attract new listeners.

Overall, Zeitgeist fails to justify the hype that surrounded its impending release. Depending on your previous opinion of the band, this represents either a disappointing pastiche of the Smashing Pumpkins sound or a cynical attempt by Billy Corgan to cash in on the mystique that comes with seven years absence. Unfortunately,  these opinions are not mutually exclusive.

Steven O'Rourke

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.

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Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.