As the turn of the century beckoned, Billy Corgan was adrift. Once a kingpin of America’s vibrant alt-rock scene, his original bandmates left Smashing Pumpkins one by one amid rumours of furious ego clashes and Billy’s destructive drive for control. He replaced them with a revolving door of musicians, the result of which was a series of albums that went from disappointing to disastrous. Eventually, Billy pursued a solo career – which, ironically, produced some of the most purely Pumpkins-sounding music he’d made in years. Until now. Eighteen years on, the ‘original’ Pumpkins line-up – the omission of original bassist D’Arcy Wretzky notwithstanding – has returned. Long-time fans have predicted a renaissance of classic-era proportions, but while the album includes a number of the Pumpkins’ calling cards, those expecting Siamese Dream Mk II will likely be disappointed.
Shiny… showed its strongest hand early with singles Solara and Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts). The former channels Zero’s muted, crunching guitars and sonic heft, while the latter dials in to Pumpkins’ propensity for whimsical lo-fi indie rock with a big chorus. Marchin’ On benefits from its solid, weighty riffs while Seek And You Shall Destroy offers a spiky, compelling finale. But it’s not all good news; Travels’ plodding radio rock flounders, while opener Knights Of Malta sets a strange tone with its soulful, gospel-tinged chorus, watery vocals and pristine guitar solos. A vague sci-fi theme ties much of the album together, which adds to the muddle rather than providing a thread to follow. It’s unfair, perhaps, but inevitable that a band of Pumpkins’ heritage will be judged by their past triumphs, but here they fall just short of the mark. A little more of that original chemistry and bite could’ve made a good album great.
For Fans Of: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Muse