The Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania - REVIEW
Oceania is the much anticipated “album-within-an-album” project that the new lineup of SP has had in the works for almost a year now, putting the ongoing concept album of a grander scheme, the still building 44 song vision Teargarden by Kaleidyscope that Oceania is considered a part of, effectively on hold for the time being. Fans will be pleased that at 13 tracks, Oceania is substantial enough to make up for all the free downloadable songs from the Kaleidyscope project that they were promised from the Pumpkins and have been deprived of in the time it has taken to record Oceania.
Being a part of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, the album naturally shares the same conceptual and artistic direction, this style of which shows a striking resemblance to the style the Pumpkins presented with their concept double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Because of this strong similarity, Oceania turns out being the most colorful and broad album that the Pumpkins have released since Mellon Collie. The album’s visceral range that can soar to the skies above, and the crisply soothing moods set by the visuals the album generates are comparable to that of Mellon Collie. Also like Mellon Collie, the album feels expansive and sprawling, not quite filling in every corner of this spaciousness like Mellon Collie could with it’s 2 discs worth of material, but still making it audibly apparent that there is a grand scale, and that there is still the much bigger Teargarden project encompassing Oceania’s universe.
Even though it’s a branch of a larger concept project, the album is still strong enough to stand independently on it’s own and be listened to as an individual album. Oceania has this constant atmosphere that firmly streams though it continuously, showing the Pumpkins reoccurring love of utilizing subtle progressive rock techniques in their structure and build, and psychedelic rock traits to give their atmosphere its scope.
From the rocking and hammering punch of the album opener “Quasar”, through to the self-titled progressively epic track “Oceania” (the signature long composition of this album that are found on all Pumpkins releases), all the way to the gentle ending ballad “Wildflower”, the album always keeps the listener engaged, fascinated, and absorbed throughout, never loosening it’s immersive grip until the conclusion. The atmosphere itself that’s found on Oceania is psycadelic in a dreamy and polished sense as opposed to the trippy side of psychedelia the Pumpkins experimented with on their debut Gish through harrowing distortion.
The most notable thing about this album however, is Corgan’s optimistic and high spirited attitude throughout the album. Since he is currently middle-aged, it’s understandable that one would expect a mid-life crisis consisting of trying to recapture his youth in the grunge years to be prevalent on the material, but it seems Corgan thankfully went through a control freak phase years earlier and got it out of his system in time for it not to interfere with his ambition presently.
Corgan sings above love both lost and gained, but he does not dwell and moopily wade in depression and regret. Here he instead much rather prefers to concentrate on the positives, and feels genuinely inspired and happy to experience life, casting an infectious spell of wonder and peace to listener’s in the process. Finding youth and happiness in being content with who he is now instead of trying to relive days gone by. This mood compliments the music greatly, making the albums grand scale feel like a wondrous feat to gaze at in intrigue, to immerse oneself in and gain an elementally natural high.
In addition to Corgan’s joyous impression on the album, he also doesn’t feel like he’s the only thing that matters here. Corgan feels like a leader and not like the dictator he’s been for the last few Pumpkins releases. This album feels like a group effort, that aid and input was welcome. It doesn’t feel contained and precisely controlled by one man and his strict boundaries like 2007’s Zeitgeist was. This album marks the return for a strong and healthy incarnation ofthe band. Over time it’s been slowly but surely working towards it, as the whole Teargarden project saw the band forming the relationship they display with this album, but the material itself never felt together as the project is still a work in progress, but now that there is a strong album of songs that go together and are cohesively gathered, The Smashing Pumpkins in both their music, and among themselves, definitely feel like a band again.
In a nutshell, Oceania represents the Pumpkins where there are now, and it shows them being proud of it. The sound takes the outline of previous albums, such as the delicate tone attempted on Adore, but reforms them with a new found stance of content in their career, which the band has not gained in years. This stance truly is the reason for Oceania feeling so boundless and astonished with itself, making a solid and fluent album that shows the Pumpkins inspired and satisfied with their current in form.
It’s been a long time coming, but a long time after their peak in popularity, The Smashing Pumpkins have shed their chains to their old scene, and the once primarily shoegaze influenced group have turned their heads up from their laces and are confidently gazing at a mural of limitless possibilities in the great above.
Fans rejoice, The Bill Corgan Show has been canceled indefinitely.